Israeli election ballots [File].
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Some two weeks before the March 17 elections, The Jerusalem Post debate series in English kicks off Sunday night in Netanya.
Knesset candidates from seven parties will face off at 7:30 p.m. at Beit Oleh America to answer questions from the moderator, Post deputy managing editor Tovah Lazaroff and the audience of English-speaking voters.
Scheduled participants include the Likud’s Bennie Begin, Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai, Kulanu candidate Michael Oren, Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman, Bayit Yehudi’s Uri Bank, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg and Yisrael Beytenu’s Ashley Perry.
“There are up to 300,000 Israelis whose mother tongue is English,” said the Post’s editor- in-chief Steve Linde. “This public is used to the culture of debates, and we’re honoring their request to hear in their native language from the candidates seeking their votes in the coming election.”
The Post debate series, in partnership with AACI, the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, Beit Knesset Ohel Ari, the Tel Aviv International Salon and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Student Union, will continue in Tel Aviv on March 8 at Hangar 11; March 9 in Ra’anana at Beit Knesset Ohel Ari; and March 10 in Beersheba at Ben-Gurion University Building 18; before culminating three days before Election Day on March 14 in the capital at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue.
According to Yesh Atid’s Lipman, the English-speaking population has grown to the size that it’s worth significant mandates in the Knesset.
“I believe that even though we do a very good job becoming integrated into Israeli society – and therefore there’s certainly no need for our own party or movement – the English-speaking public does have specific needs and also a specific perspective of Israel, both in terms of aliya and internal issues that affect them,” said Lipman. “Parties recognize that this is a population they can tap into and are, therefore, reaching out to them.”
Kulanu candidate Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US, said that as someone who made aliya from the US as a lone soldier 40 years ago, he understands the problems and challenges immigrants from English-speaking countries face.
“The most difficult day for me as a lone soldier was the day I was discharged,” Oren said. “In Israel, there are thousands of olim from English-speaking countries, and it imperative to reach out to them to ensure that they don’t just choose to make Israel their home, but that they choose to stay here.”
Oren added: “Professional Hebrew ulpans, more absorption budget, support for lone soldiers – these are just some of the issues that we’re obliged to take on to assist the wonderful population that arrives here from English-speaking countries out of love of Israel and real Zionism. In the last few weeks, I’ve talked to many English-speaking Israelis at parlor meetings, and I’m happy that these debates are taking place. They’re an accessible forum for providing an introduction to the parties for the widest possible audience.”
Lipman expressed pride at having worked in the last Knesset for the English-speaking public as an MK.
“People were exposed to the benefit of having an English-speaking representative in the Knesset, and I think that English speakers are seeking that either in an actual candidate or in parties that will take care of the needs that they have,” he said. “And I’m very happy that this issue has risen to the fore and that parties recognize the need for that.”
To that end, Post editor Linde stressed the importance of the upcoming debates and urged English-speakers in the country to take advantage of the opportunity to hear the candidates debate the issues that most affect them in English.
“We’re calling on the English-speaking community to take part in one of the debates in order to be better informed leading up to this fateful Election Day,” he said, adding that members of the audience would be given an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates at the end of each debate.