JERUSALEM – An Israeli court has ordered new municipal elections be held in a deeply divided city, citing irregularities in the initial vote.
Beit Shemesh's 100,000 residents are split almost equally between ultra-Orthodox and other Jewish groups, including the secular, the modern Orthodox, Russian and American immigrants and Jews of Middle Eastern descent.
Official results of the October vote showed voters lining up almost entirely along religious affiliation. Incumbent ultra-Orthodox mayor Moshe Abutbul garnered less than 1,000 votes more.
However, dozens of witnesses alleged fraud. They claimed ballots were damaged and disqualified while residents with questionable identification tried to vote multiple times.
On Thursday, a Jerusalem district court accepted the appeal, saying a "heavy shadow" was cast over the vote.
Secular challenger Eli Cohen praised the decision saying "the truth came out."