We visit the Knesset

February 10, 2015 by Michael Kuttner
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At the invitation of the Government Press Office, members of the foreign press stationed in Israel were invited to participate in a tour of the Knesset and a briefing which amongst other topics covered democracy in action and the mechanics of the forthcoming elections.

From: Michael Kuttner

As J-Wire’s Israel based correspondent I took the opportunity to not only participate but also to make useful contacts and expose foreign media representatives to the work of J-Wire.

Michael Kutner in the committee room listening to a presentation.

Michael Kutner in the committee room listening to a presentation.

The first part of the tour covered some of the art exhibits such as the Marc Chagall tapestries and also viewing the Declaration of Independence. In regard to the latter, it is interesting to note that this historic document had no problem describing the new State of Israel as Jewish which obviously caused no waves at the time. One has to wonder therefore why defining Israel today as a Jewish State is so problematical for some people.

A presentation by the Knesset spokesperson and Head of media & Public Relations gave reporters an opportunity to learn about the working of the Knesset and view a power point presentation outlining interesting facts and figures. A visit to the committee wing and a talk there enlightened everyone as to the working of the various Knesset committees where in actual fact most of the work of Knesset members takes place.

Yuli Edelstein, Knesset Speaker addressing the media.

Yuli Edelstein, Knesset Speaker addressing the media.

A highlight of the day was an address by the Knesset Speaker, Yuli Edelstein who after a short introductory talk, invited questions on a wide variety of subjects ranging from the multitude of parties represented, how Governments are chosen, representation of minorities and foreign policy. The miracle of modern Israel and indeed Jewish history is encapsulated by the fact that not so many years ago, Yuli Edelstein was a prisoner of Zion in Russia and today he is the Speaker of the Knesset, a fact not lost on all those listening to him.

A first for many journalists was a tour of the debating chamber where a detailed explanation of seating arrangements and parliamentary procedures was given.

Chagall tapestry in the Knesset

Chagall tapestry in the Knesset

The final event of the day was a talk by the legal advisor to the Central Elections Committee, who outlined the procedures and legalities of elections in Israel.

The general theme of the day was showing how Israel’s democracy and its institutions were designed to be transparent and at the service of all its citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religious orientation. It was a glorious opportunity of showcasing how despite wars, terror and other problems, Israel’s commitment to democratic values was enshrined and operates under the law.

I had the opportunity to meet journalists and media experts from many parts of the world. Talking to these individuals from places as diverse as Vietnam, China, South Africa, USA, Germany, Russia, Turkey and Brazil it was obvious that for most of them this first time visit to Israel’s legislature and exposure to democracy in action, obliterated some previously held misconceptions. If this contributes to future more balanced reporting then this whole exercise will have been most worthwhile.

 

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