After tumultuous elections, Israel’s elected representatives pledged their allegiance to the Jewish State.

Members of Knesset

PM Netanyahu (bottom 2L) and President Rivlin (bottom C) pose with political party heads. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Knesset (Israeli parliament) opening session was filled with fresh faces as 39 new Members of Knesset joined veteran lawmakers in a swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday.

New Likud MK Dr. Avraham Negusie, an Israeli of Ethiopian origin elected to the 20th Knesset, told Tazpit News Agency: “I am not only representing my community but also all the new immigrants and Israeli society.” Negusie, who lives in Jerusalem with his family, made Aliyah (immigration to Israel) from Ethiopia in 1985 and is a social and political activist for Ethiopian olim (immigrants), assisting in their integration.

“I will be acting in the Knesset on social efforts and working to decrease the economic gaps in this country,” stated Negusie, who has a PhD in Philosophy of Education from the University of Sussex in England.

Another new face to the Knesset is Moscow-born MK Ksenia Svetlova of the Zionist Union party. An Israeli journalist on Arab affairs who speaks Russian, Arabic, Hebrew and English, Svetlova told Tazpit that the first inaugural session of the Knesset was very important to her. “We take the oath of loyalty to Israel; it’s an oath that we swear to be loyal not only to our country but to the voters, to the people of Israel.”

Commenting on the record number of 28 women in the Knesset, Svetlova said that “it is a fantastic accomplishment, but we are not there yet.” The new MK, who had to renounce her Russian citizenship prior to being sworn in on Tuesday, hopes that in the future there will be an equal number of women and men in the Israeli parliament as well as in all government offices. “We are working towards this direction,” she said.

For veteran MK Silvan Shalom (Likud), a cabinet minister, the day was just as historical and important to him as previous inaugurations. “It’s a very important day for Israeli democracy. This is not something that we should take for granted, especially while we are in the Middle East facing so many threats and security problems,” he told Tazpit.

“We are the only democratic country in the region and we need to do everything we can to keep and strengthen our democracy here in Israel,” said Shalom, who made Aliyah from Tunisia at the age of one.

The swearing-in ceremony took place at the Knesset in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Supreme Court President Miriam Naor.

Rivlin was welcomed to the Knesset plaza with a guard of honor, accompanied by Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of the 19th Knesset, as he lay a wreath at the memorial to Israel’s fallen servicemen and women.

President Rivlin (C) received at Knesset Plaza. (Knesset Spokesman)

President Rivlin (C) received at Knesset Plaza. (Knesset Spokesman)

“The walls of these halls are transparent not only because the people are examining your work, but also so that you will look outward towards them…Do not forget for even a second who sent you here; the public’s trust should always be your paramount concern,” Rivlin stated. “The decisions you make here, are the realization of our liberty as a people in the State of Israel, the Jewish democratic state.”

Veteran MK Amir Peretz led the Knesset opening session during his very brief stint as speaker, citing the significance of unity and brotherly love as important foundations in Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

The president also likened Israeli society to a family at the Passover Seder. “There are four sons: secular, religious, ultra-orthodox and Arab. They are all smart and they all know to ask questions,” he said.

By: Anav Silverman
Tazpit News Agency