Jerusalem's Young Turks

When the wife of 38-year-old MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) was pregnant, the couple found themselves repeatedly sitting in restaurants or cafes where people smoke in violation of the law. It happened to them again when they went out with their infant, who was only a few months old.

"It's unpleasant to ask people to stop, so several times we had to leave," said Erdan.

It may have been "unpleasant to ask people to stop" in the cafe, but he continued the work in another place: His experiences while sitting in places of entertainment were among the reasons for the draft bill he submitted that would fine not only the public smoker, but also the owner. The draft bill passed in the outgoing Knesset and in effect eliminated smoking in most restaurants and cafes.

Erdan, one of the outstanding class of young MKs, says that this law is directly related to his age.

"Young people go to cafes more," he said. "There's nothing that affects a politician more than the baggage he brings from his private life. When you experience raising small children or reserve duty you have a better understanding of the difficulties and the needs. Many of my laws are related to students and soldiers, for example the law that extends the period during which it is forbidden to fire a reservist who has returned from a long tour of duty or the law that enables giving preference in college dorms to those who have completed the army or National Service."

Usually the demographic most shortchanged in Knesset representation is the under-40 set. Although this group constitutes about 50 percent of eligible voters, only eight people under the age of 40 were elected to the previous Knesset (seven percent). Only one of them, Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu, 28 years old at the time), was under 30.

In this Knesset, on the other hand, no fewer that 17 people under 40 were elected, constituting about 14 percent of MKs - more than twice the number of the previous Knesset. One of the contributing factors to this situation was the decline of Likud to 12 seats in the previous elections, which enabled the party to refresh the ranks this time around. And in fact, seven of the young MKs are between 18th and 26th place on Likud's slate.

Another contributing factor was the decision by Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman to include two former models, Anastasia Michaeli and Orly Levy, on his slate. Lieberman moved Miller down to 15th place on the list.

It was high enough for him to be reelected, but meanwhile he has matured and is now 31 years old. Therefore, the youngest MK this time is Likud's lawyer and media personality, Tzipi Hotoveli, 30.

The revolution on YouTube

When Likud discovered what a young slate they had, they set up a young people's Web site with the slogan "We haven't forgotten what it's like to be a discharged soldier."

Erdan says that Netanyahu gave an unequivocal commitment on this issue, so that now he will have to keep his promise. The new young MKs also produced a video clip in which they dance awkwardly, and Erdan plays video games.

They have also started a blog. MK Danny Danon wrote, "You and I will change the world." MK-designate Ofir Akonis wrote of Tzipi Livni that she, "is like children's star Tzipi Shavit who had a program called "Tzipiput" on educational television in the early 1980s. She chatters and chatters, but she doesn't say a single meaningful thing."

Do young parliamentarians take better care of young people than older parliamentarians do?

MK Alex Miller is convinced that, "you can take an example from me. For example, I passed the Student Rights Law, a big law with 27 items." The law arranges the freedom of assembly and demonstration of students on the campuses.

Miller is also proud of the law for supervising the psychometric institutes, which requires them to return most of the registration fee to anyone who changes his mind. It also requires the National Institute for Testing and Evaluation to publish the format of the exams, which enables anyone to prepare on their own. But it was MK Silvan Shalom (Likud) who was first to submit the bill, and he is no longer so young.

Erdan admits that his point of view as a young MK is developing and changing in accordance with his status in life.

"Today I'm on the verge of not being young," he admits. He says that age also affects the level of extremism. "You can see that in the fact that I joined the rebels on the subject of the disengagement from Gaza." Since then he has become more moderate, and says that "once I considered all Israeli Arabs as the enemy. Now I see differences."

Kadima has only two young people this time, outgoing coalition chairman Yoel Hasson and former party director general Yohanan Plesner. Plesner, chairman of the party's young people's division, entered the Knesset in the middle of the last term and was Miller's co-sponsor of the law to supervise the psychometric institutes. During this term he hopes very much to advance the issue of mandatory National Service.

One of the more famous young women to have entered the Knesset is Michaeli, 33, a mother of seven with an eighth on the way. She plans to become involved with tax breaks for working mothers, especially child-care expenses.

"For a woman with one child it doesn't even pay to go out to work," she said. "I have many friends who complain about that. Women have to advance. When a woman advances, so do the children."