”Unity Day” at the Knesset: Ministers, MKs host panel discussions with academics, elected officials, university students and NGO reps

An event marking Unity Day was held in the Knesset`s Chagall Hall on Tuesday in the presence of Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein and opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp), and with the participation of House Committee Chairman MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), who heads the Lobby for the Unity of the Nation, and MKs Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu), Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) and Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Camp).

The event was attended by some 200 people, including ministers, MKs, scholars, public servants, elected officials from local authorities, educators, representatives of the Israel Association of Community Centers, university students, and civil society and third sector representatives.

Unity Day marks the memory of the three teens who were kidnapped and murdered in June 2014, Eyal Yifrah, Gil-ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel. The day is an initiative of the boys’ families, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Gesher, an organization dedicated to Jewish identity and unity.

The event included panel discussions, moderated by ministers and MKs, on a host of issues:

– ”Army and State” (Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Avi Dichter – Likud)

– ”The Rule of the Rabbi/Majority” (Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni – United Torah Judaism)

– ”The Jewish Diaspora – Movements within Judaism” (MK Michael Oren)

– ”Sovereignty or Messianism” (MK Yehuda Glick – Likud)

– ”Beta Israel – Israelis of Ethiopian Descent” (Minister Ofir Akunis)

– ”The Integration of the Commonwealth of Independent States” (MK Yoel Razvozov – Yesh Atid)

– ”It`s All in the Education” – Education Committee Chairman MK Yakov Margi – Shas)

– ”This is How a Community is Built” (MK Eli Cohen of Kulanu, chairman of the Special Committee to Discuss the National Authority for Urban Renewal Bill)

– ”House of Cards/the Elected” (MK Nahmias-Verbin)

– ”Media Review” (MK Amir Ohana – Likud)

– ”Let the Youth Rule” (MK Ben Ari)

– ”Shaming Networks” (MK Levy)

Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein said ”I am pleased that this is not just another event of speeches and greetings and that it also has a practical aspect: the 12 `round tables` – symbolically the number of the tribes of Israel – around which the discussions are held. The main message that will come out of this event today is that any issue, even the `hottest` and most complicated, can be clarified through different positions, even if they are opposing views. It is particularly important that a message of unity and connection comes out of the Knesset in Jerusalem. I know very well how much this place reflects, at times, disagreement and grudges, but this is precisely why I believe it is important that we remember what our essence is and what is the source of our moral resilience.”

Opposition leader Herzog said, ”I believe that unity is not uniformity. Unity is a national mission that we must deal with. It also requires us, in this House, to do all we can. Let`s hope that today`s activities will be fruitful and that we will all leave here with efficient and helpful insights and content.”

MK Kisch said ”We must not let disagreements lead to division and hatred. Our ability to deal with challenges is severely harmed when there is no unity. We at the Knesset must also think about unity rather than constantly use the power of the coalition.”