Moshe Abutbul (R), the ultra-Orthodox Jewish mayor of Beit Shemesh, is hugged by a supporter in the town near Jerusalem March 3, 2014. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
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A bitter mayoral race in a town that has become a symbol of religious and political divisions in Israel ended on Wednesday with the victory of its ultra-Orthodox Jewish incumbent over his secular challenger.Moshe Abutbul won the re-vote in Beit Shemesh, a town near Jerusalem that has become a focus of national attention in the Jewish state where secular-religious tensions often flare.Abutbul won the election by 758 votes, 51 percent of the ballot, over his secular rival Eli Cohen, the Interior Ministry said.Ultra-Orthodox Jews, also known as Haredim, a term in Hebrew which means "those who tremble before God", began settling in Beit Shemesh, originally a secular, working class community, in the 1990s. Estimates say they now make up about 40 percent of the town's 80,000 population.
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