Knesset rookies enjoy the spotlight

18th Knesset has a record 21 women MKs; the average age of the members is 53.

knesset full 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
knesset full 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As the 18th Knesset was sworn in Tuesday, many of the 31 rookie MKs looked and sounded very much like first graders on their first day at school. Kadima MK Orit Zuaretz, No. 28 on Kadima's Knesset list, was visibly excited as she approached the journalists who awaited the MKs at the entrance to the parliament building in Jerusalem. "I hope it is going to be interesting for me and I hope this Knesset will be better than the previous one, and that we will remain modest," she said. New Likud MK Ophir Akunis, a bit less "green," having spent several years as a parliamentary adviser, was accompanied by his wife - whom he met during his parliamentary work - and two children. "It's something else to be here as a Knesset member," he said. Former Haaretz journalist Daniel Ben-Simon, a new Labor MK, revealed that a few times people had called him and asked for MK Ben-Simon, but in his confusion he had told them they had gotten a wrong number. "I am a Knesset member for an hour!" he said, excitedly, as the ceremony ended and the MKs and guests proceeded to the reception. Journalists took particular interest in the new MKs, among them Meretz MK and former journalist Nitzan Horowitz; former journalist and now MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), the first female Arab MK to enter the Knesset on an Arab list, Haneen Zuabi (Balad); former Russian TV anchor Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beitenu), currently pregnant with her eighth child; former model and TV show host Orly Levy (Israel Beitenu) the daughter of former Likud MK and foreign minister David Levy, and Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who at 30 is the youngest MK of this Knesset. "Behind any successful man stands a surprised woman," Orbach joked, as he introduced his family to reporters. David Levy said that he had held a couple of talks with his daughter and had given her a few pointers. "I am proud of her and I am excited. Watching my daughter being sworn in reminded me of the day I was sworn in, 38 years ago," he said. Levy admitted that he had never imagined his daughter would pursue politics. "But I saw she has had a lot of success in anything she does and I respect her decision," he said. "I told her that this world has its own set of rules, and that whoever decides to enter this world must be strong. She must remain loyal to her own truth and stand up for it," he added. As the MKs wandered around the plenum, chatting with each other, former Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik remarked that this sort of bustle would not be happening if she were still in charge. Acting Speaker Likud MK Michael Eitan, meanwhile, said that since it became clear that he'd be in this position until a coalition was formed, he'd been bombarded by requests to cancel the Itzik-imposed Knesset dress code, which forbids jeans and Crocs, among other things. However, he said, "since I am going to serve in this position only a couple of weeks, I don't intend to cancel it." New National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari did not bother listening to Eitan's address from the podium, choosing instead to read a book written by the late Kach leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. Ben-Ari said that it was only on Tuesday afternoon that he finally internalized what an enormous responsibility he had taken upon himself. "I couldn't eat for the past few days out of excitement," he said, expressing sorrow that his parents had not been able to see him sworn in and committing to further the cause of the Jewish state. Hananel Ben-Ari, one of his seven children, did not seem very happy, however. "We know he is not going to be home much now," he said. The average age of the members of the 18th Knesset is 53, compared to 55 in the 17th Knesset. The oldest MK is Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is 73 and the most veteran one is MK Haim Ramon, who has served since May 1983. This Knesset has a record 21 women MKs, four more than in the 17th Knesset.