Meet Fresh Faces of Knesset as Israel Election Sparks Parliament Shake-Up

Women, Orthodox, and Ethiopians Make Debuts in Chamber

Not Grandma’s Knesset: The Israeli election brought an unprecedented flood of new members to the chamber.
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Not Grandma’s Knesset: The Israeli election brought an unprecedented flood of new members to the chamber.

By JTA

Published January 29, 2013.
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Lipman hopes his presence in Yesh Atid – the party campaigned for universal national service, including haredim – will allow him to help integrate haredi Israelis into the rest of Israeli society.

Leading up to Election Day, few expected Lipman, No. 17 on the Yesh Atid ticket, to land a seat in Knesset. But Yesh Atid campaigned hard. Every night, it seemed, Lipman hosted a parlor meeting for English-speaking Israelis, participating in English-language debates or blogging on the English news site the Times of Israel.

When Yesh Atid won 19 seats, Lipman was in.

Ruth Calderon (Yesh Atid)

Ruth Calderon, 51, is a Jewish scholar who, like Lipman, advocates interreligious understanding. But unlike Lipman and most Jewish scholars in Israel, Calderon earned her degree at a university, not a yeshiva.

But that didn’t stop her from starting one. Calderon, who holds a doctorate in Talmud from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, founded the Elul Beit Midrash in Jerusalem in 1989, one of the city’s first Jewish study houses where secular and religious Israelis can study and discuss Judaism together. More recently, Calderon founded Alma, a center for Hebrew culture in Tel Aviv with a mission to combine Jewish, Israeli and universal culture.

Calderon calls herself a “non-halachic person,” but that doesn’t stop her from posting daily passages from the Mishnah on her Facebook page. She also hosted “Hacheder,” a television program in which she discussed Hebrew culture with guests.

Erel Margalit (Labor)

The Labor Party’s campaign this year, driven by party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, was to strengthen middle-class and poor Israelis. One of the campaign’s central slogans declared that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is good for rich people. Shelly is good for you,” and one of the party’s most public new faces was 2011 social protest leader Stav Shaffir.


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