Throughout the program our group embarked on site visits, had lectures, and enjoyed informational tours on a variety of topics. However, in order to truly grasp the current state of Israeli politics it was necessary to meet with those who actually represent the government as policy-makers and experts. Two specific days in the jam-packed 2 ½ week schedule fulfilled this job of hearing directly from those who play a role in Israel’s current political and governmental scene. The first of these days included a trip to the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, with the next being a visit to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
In our trip to the Knesset the class met with two current Members of Knesset (MKs), MK Boaz Toporovsky of Yesh Atid and MK Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsour of Ra’am Ta’al. In preparation for these meetings the class listened to a lecture from Professor Ziv on the state of domestic Israeli politics, including the background of Israeli political parties and make-up of the political left and right in Israel. In meeting with MK Toporovsky the class got the valuable chance to hear from an MK in the rising Yesh Atid party, known for its success in the latest election cycle and for party head Yair Lapid (Minister of Finance). The young MK, with a background in student activism, discussed his personal and party’s interest in tackling the pressing social issues in Israel today. Toporovsky fielded questions from the class on the issues of importance to the MK, as well as challenging inquires to his party’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Following the meeting with a young Yesh Atid MK, the class switched gears to meet with MK Sheikh Sarsour. In contrast to the social agenda of Toporovsky, MK Sarsour passionately lectured on the status of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in today’s Israeli society. The Ra’am Ta’al representative called for significant improvement in the treatment of Israeli Arabs, and discussed an array of topics in relation to equality in education, employment, and political rights. By meeting with a pair of contrasting MKs from parties that differ significantly, the class benefited from seeing the diversity which makes up the Knesset. While, even for the casual observer, it is relatively easy to grasp the party system in American politics, I think the class came away from our Knesset visits with an appreciation for the more in-depth party structure of Israeli politics.
(Us with MK Sheikh Ibrahim Sarsour of Ra'am Ta'al)