From grief to activism

Nava Boker, a new face running in the Likud Party, looks back on the legacy of her husband, who died in the Carmel fire, and is hopeful the country can overcome obstacles.

Nava Boker (photo credit: SHLOMI BEN-DAVID)
Nava Boker
(photo credit: SHLOMI BEN-DAVID)
Nava Boker brings a solemn background to her decision to run for the next Knesset. The 44-yearold mother of two is one of the new faces in the Likud Party for the upcoming elections, having placed No. 25 on the party list in the January 2 primaries. She is the widow of Dep.-Ch. Lior Boker, one of the police officers who perished in the Carmel Forest fire of 2010.
A journalist and professional media adviser, she was born and raised in Pardess Hanna and describes herself as a “traditional Jew.”
Sitting down for a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, she says that after her husband’s death, “I chose to channel my sad feelings about the 44 people who burned to death in the fire, in a positive direction. And so I founded a support system for the fire and rescue squads. I raised funds to purchase new lifesaving equipment and gathered a group of volunteers. I helped establish a firefighting squadron and pushed for a reform that was fully backed by Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
Her organization called for supporting the purchase of eight firefighting planes and improving the readiness of the country’s 600 new firefighters and 89 new trucks, and investing NIS 1 billion in national firefighting infrastructure.
“I founded a Knesset caucus, I worked to create a firefighting school and a training center. I am currently working on emergency preparedness, but there is a limit to how much one individual can do alone.
I thought to myself: How can I best use my energy to make the biggest impact possible with respect to firefighting, and also on other social issues that are close to my heart? And that’s when I realized that becoming a public figure would be the easiest way to accomplish my goals, since I would have a budget to work with and I would be able to implement changes, make improvements and raise awareness throughout the country.”
She has other issues in which she believes passionately, such as social reform and “reducing the gap between the rich and the poor populations in Israel.
Also, I will fight to have the minimum wage increased [and] more accessible housing for the homeless, and to find a solution to the problem of illegal infiltrators in Tel Aviv.”
The minimum-wage demand is a major issue for the country’s poorest workers. In December, the Histadrut labor federation reached an agreement with the Federation of Israeli Economic Organizations to raise the wage to NIS 5,000 a month over two years, from its current NIS 4,300. As a point of reference, for those like Boker, whose partners work in the emergency or civil service, the pay is abysmal. In 2010, low pay was the No. 1 complaint among police; in that year, for instance, prison guards made only NIS 4,400 a month, while the elite counterterror Yamam police made NIS 5,000 a month.
As for the matter of housing, she says, “the housing problem that young couples are facing will not disappear...
every year there are more and more young and older couples who want to buy homes. Many Israeli divorced women and men also find themselves without a roof over their heads.”
Her Knesset candidacy comes amid an increasing push to elect women to the parliament. MK Ayelet Shaked came in second in the Bayit Yehudi primaries, and three out of the top five Meretz candidates are women; Labor boasts an impressive female lineup and is running with Tzipi Livni as its co-partner in the Zionist Union Party. The joint Arab list includes a new, high-profile female candidate from Hadash.
Although some have described bureaucratic and other hurdles as characterizing the primaries, Boker says she was “pleasantly surprised” by the welcome she received from the Likud.
“What I’ve found is a democratic movement that offers equal opportunity,” she says. “Anyone can apply to be a candidate... and succeed. It’s common knowledge that a number of women ran against me, some of whom have the solid support of the Tel Aviv Municipality, and others who are supported by figures in Jerusalem and the Histadrut. And despite all this, influential individuals in the Likud Party voted for me.”
She gives particular credit to Rosh Ha’ayin City Council member Hanoch Oz, the city’s Likud chairman, who supported her.
When it comes to the frozen Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Boker argues that any solution must take into account Israel’s security.
“You can call it autonomy or a demilitarized state or a two-state solution – its name is not important.
What’s important to me is the security of the state and of our children. It does not seem to me like there is any immediate solution on the horizon,” she says.
She argues that such a solution can’t happen while Palestinians are teaching their children to hate.
“It’s important to me what the Palestinian children and teens say and feel about us. So long as they are not interested in peace, we will have to require that a number of conditions be in effect for a few decades. I want to know that all Palestinian children are growing up with the desire for peace. In my opinion, the only person capable of doing this is Benjamin Netanyahu,” she asserts.
Although she doesn’t want to provide details on a potential solution to the conflict, she believes that Israel’s right to exist is being called into question and that this is an urgent issue that must be addressed.
“We can talk about quality-of-life issues, but first we need to make sure that we’re going to remain alive.”
She cites the Iranian nuclear threat as one major issue that the international community must address, and praises Netanyahu’s attempts to bring the matter to the world’s attention.
With the threat of Islamic State on the horizon, she adds, Israel must partner with “Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries in an effort to fight against ISIS [Islamic State] and Iran. We began this process of uprooting Hamas during Operation Protective Edge, and we are continuing it today. Individuals who are trying to convince the public to support the Clinton plan or any other platform simply don’t understand that the world has changed, that the Middle East is changing.”
She hopes voters will return the Likud to office with an even larger mandate of up to 35 seats. Having a larger number of seats, she says, will create greater stability in the political system, which has seen elections every few years in the last decade.
As she looks back, she sees politics as a “true calling” and a worthy endeavor.
“I already paid my price to the state,” she says. “I would like to bequeath to the future generations the legacy of my late husband, who lost his life trying to save the Prisons Service cadets who were trapped in a burning bus, for which he was posthumously awarded a medal of distinguished service. I have suffered through five losses in my life: my mother, my father, my sister, my nephew and my husband, and I know what real pain is. Instead of sinking into my grief, I chose to move on and to do the most I could to prevent the next disaster, so that no more women will have to be approached and told the most awful words possible about their husbands or sons.”