First wheelchair-bound MK makes maiden plenum speech

MK Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu), gave his first speech to the Knesset plenum Wednesday, expressing the hope that just as the Knesset adapted its facilities to accommodate a disabled member, all public institutions would do so. The former Herzliya councilman is the first wheelchair-bound MK to address the plenum. Shortly after he was elected to the Knesset last month, its facilities were made disabled-accessible. For example, a special podium with a ramp leading to it, complete with microphone, was installed right next to the regular podium. "The special ramp that was placed going up to the podium are a significant milestone for society in accepting those whose are different," said Matalon, who has been in a wheelchair since he was injured while serving in the Paratroopers Brigade at age 20. "This wheelchair is a means of mobility for me and nothing more; just like a seeing-eye dog for a blind man or a prosthesis for a man whose leg was amputated. "I hope that the message will reach other public institutions. I am part of a large sector in Israel whose members have been trying for many years to be an inseparable part of society. But Israeli society has not provided access - not physical, not social, not in a creative way and not in the job market. "It is a historic privilege to be here today and to tell hundreds of thousands of disabled people that the sky is the limit," Matalon said. Addressing the disabled community, he added, "Don't give up, clench your teeth and ignore the pain. That is the only way you could achieve your goals." Matalon promised to help the weak and needy sectors of the population and to "work to legislate employment laws for disabled people in all governmental and public institutions." He was chairman of the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization from 2000 to 2008. Balad MK Haneen Zuabi, from Nazareth, also made her maiden speech to the plenum Wednesday. She represented a different kind of first, as the first female Knesset member in an Arab list. "All I have got is because of me and due to the fact that I am in my homeland, on my land," she said, defiantly. "Everything an Arab in Israel has today is because of him and because of the fact that he is on his land. Anything I don't have was expropriated from me. "Let no one can preach to us and tell us how we should work for our people, especially not these who are signed on decisions that discriminate against us," she continued. "Don't talk to us about rights in exchange for obligations. If you want to settle the score with me, let's start with 1948."