MKs Give Democracy Lessons for Tu Bishvat

About 100 lawmakers marked Tu Bishvat, the birthday of the Knesset, by going into the schools to speak to students about the legislature and its part in democracy. The Shas faction did not make a secret of its target audience - it asked to be placed at secular schools in outlying and poorer communities, that is, among their potential voters.

MK Shlomo Benizri (Shas) spoke at Jerusalem's Givat Gonen School, which educates in the spirit of Labor Movement values, and which is situated in the heart of the underprivileged Katamonim neighborhood. While Benizri did not try to turn the kids Orthodox, he did tell them that Theodor Herzl had a Christmas tree and that his two sons were not circumcised (note: Herzl had three children, only one of whom was male).

The media-conscious Shas lawmaker has no doubt where Israel's greatest problem lies: "It is the media that is destroying the country," he revealed to the students. "They will not show the positive things the Knesset does; that's why it looks the way it does."

Benizri, who has answered the provocative questions of secular people hundreds of times, blithely used selective information in shooting back answers on religious coercion and the drafting of yeshiva students. The only question that found him unprepared was whether he would agree to a secular MK lecturing in his children's school. Conceding that he protects his children from outside influences, he said: "In our yeshivas we don't deal with democracy and the like. It is your parents' right to say, 'Don't bring Benizri.'"

The students did not do their homework regarding the legal status of their guest. After I had given up hope that anyone would ask, I was forced to plant the question: "Is it appropriate for an individual suspected of bribery to lecture students?" (Benizri has been indicted for taking bribes and breach of public trust.)

"In a democracy, a person is innocent until proven guilty," Benizri answered.

MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) shared a story at the Gymnasia Rehavia High School, his alma mater, before his lecture. He said that in the 1950s, each year before Passover, the school would hold a student-faculty soccer game. During the first years, "the students would cream the teachers," until several younger teachers came on staff and the tide turned.

On a more serious note, Rivlin, a former candidate for state president, told the students that President Shimon Peres should move to Sderot at least temporarily, and noted that he goes there at least twice a month.