On Monday a group Knesset officials, MKs and Knesset employees united for a special Mincha prayer service for kidnapped yeshiva students Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah.
”I asked to hold this prayer service and read from Psalms at the Knesset today out of hope and faith that the many prayers for the captives’ wellbeing will be answered soon,” said Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, who served as the cantor.
The prayer service was held in Sprinzak Hall, near the Knesset`s synagogue.
Earlier in the day Speaker Edelstein opened the plenum sitting by saying that everyone is tense and concerned about the three boys’ safety.
“They were kidnapped by terrorists in a clear attempt to threaten our lives and cause fear and terror,” he said. ”As the boys were being kidnapped, the wife of the head of the Palestinian Authority was hospitalized in Israel to undergo a complicated operation. In my eyes, this is very symbolic. While we hold life sacred, our enemies worship death. While the State of Israel displays good neighborly behavior – our enemies continue to display irresponsibility, incitement, hatred, malicious joy and the constant crossing of accepted red lines in national struggles.”
”The Palestinian leadership and the terror elements should know that if one hair falls from the head of either one of the boys – none of them will be safe from Israel`s arm,” Edelstein told the plenum.
During Tuesday`s meeting of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, Chairwoman MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) addressed fellow committee member MK Hanin Zoabi`s remarks regarding the kidnapping of the three Israeli yeshiva students.
”How dare you say the kidnappers are not terrorists?” Lavie asked.
In response, MK Zoabi (National Democratic Assembly) said: ”You are rude. You do not deserve to be chairperson of this committee. Are you a police officer? You are a racist.”
The Knesset`s security chief assigned a bodyguard to MK Zoabi after she received threatening phone calls regarding her remarks.
Zoabi caused another uproar when she said during a plenary sitting on Tuesday that ”nearly half of Israeli youths are in favor of stripping Palestinian citizens in the country of their basic rights. They are more rightist than they have been in the past and more nationalistic. Studies show that youngsters believe less in democracy and more in solutions by way of force. The IDF is the only body that receives near complete trust from youths. As for the possibility of peace with the Palestinians, most teens said they prefer the continuation of the current situation.”
MK Nissim Zeev (Shas) called Zoabi`s remarks inciting and said: ”When Hanin Zoabi says the kidnappers (of the three yeshiva students) are not terrorists – of course they aren`t. If she is not as terrorist, why would they be considered terrorists? When she boarded the Marmara (Turkish vessel which was intercepted by the IDF as it was making its way to Gaza) and identifies with the enemy and the State of Israel does not see it fit to prosecute her, then why wouldn`t she allow herself to say anything she wants?
Also on Tuesday, the Knesset held a special plenary sitting to mark World Environment Day. Speaker Edelstein opened the session by saying, ”I am pleased to inform you that some two weeks ago the Knesset completed the tender for the installation of a solar array to create electricity from renewable energy. This array will be set up on 4,650 square meters of the Knesset`s roofs, making it the largest of any parliament in the world. It will showcase the Knesset`s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the framework of the global activity to reduce climate change.”
”Furthermore, numerous measures have been taken by the Knesset`s employees as part of the effort to reduce the amount of waste, reduce the use of paper, switch to recycled paper, save water and more,” Edelstein said. ”The Knesset is also making an effort to expose its employees to the principles of sustainability and encourage environmental thinking and responsibility.”
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (Hatenua) said, ”Today it is clear to everyone that the environmental issue has broad implications, and one cannot separate social justice from environmental justice. The public`s voice regarding the environmental issue has reached the government`s table and it influences decisions.”
During a meeting of the Knesset`s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, Minister Peretz announced that his plan for a ”revolution in the recycling of plastic bags” would be implemented in the near future. As part of the plan, plastic bags will no longer be distributed free of charge in supermarkets and other places of business. Rather, each citizen will be given a number of reusable bags according to coupons he or she will receive from the Environmental Protection Ministry. One plastic bag will cost the consumer some 60 agorot, 50 of which will be invested in an environmental fund.
Later in the day, during a ceremony in Chagall Hall, the Knesset was presented with the Green Globe award for its ”Green Knesset” project. During the awards ceremony, Knesset Speaker Edelstein said, ”In the coming years the Knesset will change its familiar exterior. It will become a symbol of the preservation of environmental values and a model of sustainability to all those who observe it and walk along its paths and hallways. By implementing the ”Green Knesset” project, the Knesset is marching one step forward and taking upon itself a far-reaching environmental commitment.”
The Green Globe awards were handed out to 11 recipients by Life and Environment – The Israeli Union of Environmental NGOs.
On Wednesday Speaker Edelstein hosted his Slovakian counterpart Pavol Paška. ”This is a historic visit that is taking place after many years, and I believe it will further develop the excellent relations between Israel and Slovakia. During this visit we will seek ways to develop inter-parliamentary cooperation between us, because in democratic countries the parliament is the `voice of the nation,` and I believe we will see fruitful cooperation with the assistance of the Israel-Slovakia Parliamentary Friendship Group, which is headed by MK Zvulun Kalfa (HaBayit HaYehudi),” the speaker of the Israeli parliament said.
Speaker Paška cooperation between the Slovakian parliament and the Knesset ”is very important,” adding ”in the global world, parliament and the atmosphere within it dictate the content and the essence, sometimes even in a personal and informal manner.”