Meet the new MK: Nurit Koren

"I am a great believer in willpower, determination and the ability to change our lives; I want to bring the change to a national, social level," Koren says.

Nurit Koren. (photo credit: OHAD ROMANO)
Nurit Koren.
(photo credit: OHAD ROMANO)
Name: Nurit Koren
Party: Likud
Age: 55
Hometown: Herzliya
Family status: Married, with four children and four grandchildren
Profession before becoming an MK: I worked in many areas, including managing accounts, taking care of children, substitute teaching, a special education aide, and opening and managing a restaurant.  I returned to school at age 38, with four children, because I wanted to make a respectable living and to realize my potential. I studied with young people who were my oldest daughter's age. The more I learned, the more my appetite grew. Today I have a BA in social sciences and humanities from the Open University, a BA in law from the Ono Academic College and a MA in trade law from Bar-Ilan University. I managed Gilad Erdan's office when he was Environmental Protection Minister. In recent years, I'm a self-employed attorney and mediator who deals with civil suits.
Why did you decide to enter politics? Throughout my life, I was involved in the community in areas from education in my children's schools and through volunteering and helping others. I never ignored people's troubles and always tried to volunteer and help with the tools I had. As a lawyer, I helped victims of the state debt enforcement agency who could not pay a full rate. I was exposed to the difficulties bureaucracy and money problems bring to people's lives and knocked on the doors of many MKs and ministers to try to help them. I understood that in order to have the power to change and influence, I have to be part of the legislative system.
What are the first three bills you plan to propose? After I am sworn in as an MK, I plan to continue helping disadvantaged populations and people with special needs and focusing on protecting the environment. For example, I propose a reform in debt enforcement against people who cannot make their mortgage payments and the interest is too high. In addition, I want to require businesses to hire people with special needs.
What is your position on talks with the Palestinian Authority and a possible Palestinian state? The people of Israel want peace. They are tired of wars. Just eight months ago, we were attacked by Hamas and more families became bereaved families. The reality today is not good for either side, and we need to reach an agreed-upon solution that will serve both sides and protect Israel's security. As a new MK who is interested in social issues, I will leave the security and diplomatic matters to the prime minister and support him.
[Koren is one of three soon-to-be Likud MKs who participated in a Geneva Initiative seminar as a candidate. The others are Oren Hazan and Nava Boker. This could indicate that Koren has a different attitude on the matter from her party's more veteran MKs, of which only Tzachi Hanegbi attended Geneva Initative programming.]
This Knesset has a record high number of women and Israeli Arabs. How do you think this will affect the way it functions and the kinds of changes it brings? The increased presence of women in the new Knesset shows the improvements in the status of women in Israel. Women's growing power can bring changes in socioeconomic areas and in education and values. Women bring compassion and better communication skills than men, and therefore, I believe that we can get over political gaps and bring cooperation between all the female MKs to improve the quality of life of the country's citizens.
I hope that the new Israeli Arab MKs will bring a new spirit with them and help promote the Arab population's integration into Israeli society in order to shrink gaps and improve their quality of life. The best example is Likud's non-Jewish members, who understood that, in order to improve their status in Israeli society and aim for equality, they should support Likud.
What impact do you think the tension in US-Israel relations will have on us in the next few years? There have always been friendly relations between the US and Israel and I think that will continue in the coming years. The prime minister must take care of Israel's existential interest, to oppose Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and warn the world against it. Many in the US support the prime minister's way. The US is the greatest democracy in the world and its government goes according to the will of the people. The American people love and support Israel, and therefore, in the end, will support Israel and protect it.
What should the government's response be to growing global anti-Semitism? We should have better public diplomacy among Jewish communities around the world. They are our ambassadors. We have to strengthen their feeling of belonging [in Israel] and encourage them to make Aliyah, because there is only one Jewish State with no anti-Semitism.
 Do you support maintaining the status quo on religion and state – including issues like marriage, public transportation on Shabbat, kashrut and others? Israel's population is very complex. There are religious and secular people and different streams of Judaism. We must be very careful in dealing with the status quo on religion and state, which has existed for over 60 years, and protect Jewish traditions. However, in my opinion, considering global and social changes, we must adjust ourselves to the new world and check how to change the status quo without disturbing the balance that was maintained until now.
As for public transportation on Shabbat, in my opinion we have to check in each city, according to what the residents want. If there is a great social need for public transportation, it must not enter religious neighborhoods. About marriage, I think that each person can choose the way he or she connects with his or her partner. There is a sharp increase in civil marriages, and we should allow people who want to get married in that way in Israel and not abroad.
What can be done to lower the cost of housing? In order to solve the housing crisis, the government must increase the supply of homes, shorten the planning and construction process and increase the land marketed by the Israel Land Authority. It must create an incentive for contractors and developers to build rapidly. In addition, the government should encourage the construction of homes for long-term renting, in order to create alternatives to buying a home.

What should the government do to lower the poverty rate?
In order to deal with the cost of living, the government authorized the Food Law, which will create a reform in the relationship between small manufacturers and the large companies to increase competition between them. Lowering duties, canceling value-added tax on products with set prices – all of these actions should lower the cost of living.

Is there something else people should know about you?
I was born in Jerusalem in 1960, to a traditional family with deep roots and was educated with the values of religious Zionism. At age 17, I married Eli and moved to Herzliya. I started my adult life very early; at 18, I was already a mother! Today, at age 55, I have a lot of experience and understanding what real life is like. My family and I went through difficult times economically. Years of renting a home, of having an overdraft in the bank while having to pay a mortgage. We worked day and night to make a living, while building and educating our children.
I am a great believer in willpower, determination and the ability to change our lives. I want to bring the personal change I underwent to a national, social level. I am the example for the fact that it is never too late, and my perseverance and faith brought me to the 20th Knesset. I want to help every citizen live a better life live a better life.