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What a Mock Knesset Program Taught Us About Israeli Politics

What a Mock Knesset Program Taught Us About Israeli Politics

Two female students sitting on the ground and smiling up at at the camera while drawing Stars of David on posterboard

Each semester, all URJ Heller High students participate in a Mock Knesset – a full-group, day-long activity that introduces the basics of how the Israeli government forms and operates. The Knesset, which literally means “gathering” or “assembly,” is the Israeli national legislature, responsible for passing the nation’s laws and electing its leaders. 

We learned all about how the government of Israel works. The State of Israel has a democratic government, and the government has a multiparty parliamentary system. There are 10 different parties represented in the Knesset. There is not a specific date for when elections are held each year. Instead, the governing coalition at the time decides to resign which results in national elections. Within 90 days of this resignation, a new government is elected. The longest term of any party is four years. In Hebrew, a political party is called a “Mislagah.”

The current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is part of the Likud party, which has 30 seats out of the 120 in the Knesset. When the Israeli government has elections, a long process has to occur. In the beginning, the government announces it is holding elections. Next, parties and petitions are made. Each petition needs at least 10,000 signatures in order to be considered valid. Each party makes a list for the Knesset with their possible party leaders appointed. An important part of the process to clarify is that, unlike in the United States, Israeli citizens vote for a political party instead of voting directly for a candidate. At the end of this process, the party with the most votes wins and will eventually control of the Israeli government.

Did you know that Israel has one of the highest voter turnouts of any country? One of the reasons for this is because of the many safety and security issues affecting Israel today. Each topic is very controversial and the people living here care very much about their rights. Here are three topics we learned about:

  1. Israeli politics are very complicated and controversial. One of the main issues citizens are concerned about is Israel’s regional security. Due to the tension surrounding Israel, regional security and safety is often a hot topic in politics.
  2. Another important topic in Israeli politics is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As we have learned, the conflict is more complex than it is often portrayed. Israel’s independence in 1948 greatly affected the Palestinian communities living there. The most common solutions to the situation are a “one-state” and "two-state” peace solution. The Zionist Union party, Yisrael Beytenu, Yesh Atid, The Joint Arab List, and other political parties in Israel support the two-state solution.
  3. Another topic more related to the citizens themselves is how most of the country closes down on Shabbat. Because Israel is a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, most of the country shuts down on Shabbat. However, there is only a small population of observant Jews in Israel who observe Shabbat to the fullest degree. Should the country's secular Jews, Arabs, Christians, and other people have to have limits to their Saturday just because a percentage of the country observes Shabbat? This issue is a very popular conversation within Israel.

After learning all about each political party through presentations and posters, we voted on which party we want to elect for Heller High’s Knesset for Spring Semester 2018. There was a tie in votes between the Avodah and Yesh Atid parties. The leaders of the party ended up forming coalitions with other parties in order to fill out all of the positions.

I thought our Mock Knesset was very successful. We learned so much and had fun learning all about Israel’s government.

URJ Heller High School in Israel is the most experienced and most trusted high school program in Israel for meaningful Jewish learning, spiritual experiences, personal growth, and academic success – and they’re offering a $1,000 discount for this fall! Nominate a teen.

Sydney S. is an eleventh-grade student in Johns Creek, GA, and a URJ Heller High participant. 

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