Another reason to ‘like’ Mike

Government Services Minister Michael Eitan joins his Facebook friends on a special tour of the Knesset.

Michael Eitan  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Michael Eitan
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Nearly 5,000 people “like” Government Services Minister Michael Eitan on Facebook, and they were all invited to meet him in the Knesset on Tuesday.
About 50 of Eitan’s Facebook friends – ranging from teenagers to senior citizens, haredim to secular people – gathered in an auditorium to hear the minister speak and tell him their own opinions and ideas.
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“I’d like to thank Mark Zuckerberg for making this meeting possible,” Eitan said. “This is the first event of its kind in the Knesset.”
The minister said that he had only met a handful of his Facebook friends before, including one man in the audience who was in Eitan’s third-grade class, but had not kept in touch.
Eitan emphasized the impact the Internet has on democracy, saying that he saw its transformative powers in his 27 years in the Knesset.
Before the advent of the Internet, “the nation would choose its representatives for four years,” Eitan explained. “We would get a mandate from the nation, act on their faith in us, and come back to them in four years. It was a one-way road.”
“Suddenly, a new invention allows conversations between the masses and the people they elect,” he added. “Technology has empowered citizens, and allows representatives to communicate with the public.”
The “intersection of politics and new technology,” as Eitan called it, “allows representatives to make better decisions, and for the public to have more faith in us.”
Eitan said that he has been an advocate of using the Internet to connect with the public for years, and was among the MKs who initiated the founding of the Knesset’s website.
Following Eitan’s opening remarks, his Facebook friends asked questions about a variety of topics – ranging from Israel’s soon-to-be-launched biometric ID database, to the importance of reports on used cars, and captive soldier Gilad Schalit.
The minister took notes, and attempted to answer some of the questions.
After the discussion, which lasted over two hours, Eitan accompanied the group on a tour of the Knesset.
Moran Nagel, a student at Tel Aviv University who “likes” Eitan on Facebook, praised him for planning the event, calling it “an energetic initiative.”
“I think it’s a great idea, and other MKs should do it, too,” Nagel said. “I plan on asking [Eitan] questions on Facebook, because he’ll give answers.”
“This meeting was important because it fights the lack of confidence young people have in politics,” Nissim Fadida, leader of “Jewish Israel,” a group for haredi-Likud voters, explained before the tour. “It’s essential that we be able to discuss issues directly with a minister.”
Fadida expressed enthusiasm that Eitan “promised to continue to work with us. It’s an amazing thing.”