Summertime - and the MKs Are Vacationing at Home

Even when the Knesset is not in session, its members must still consider the public eye

The afternoon found MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) giving his children a bath after pool time in Tiberias, and before heading up to the Klezmer Festival in Safed. Over the next two weeks, Erdan is spending his summer break from the Knesset touring the country, with Eilat next on the list.

Erdan is not the only lawmaker in the north, nor the only one to spend his vacation in Israel. Because of public criticism over Knesset members' journeys abroad, it was not easy to get MK Avishay Braverman (Labor) to reveal that he had just gotten back from a trip to Paris, where he and his family went on bicycle tours.

Also in the north this week was MK Zevulun Orlev, chairman of the National Religious Party. This is the annual, weeklong Orlev clan vacation, with about 20 members of three generations. The group even prints their own T-shirts. This year they are camped at Moshav Sde Eliezer in the Upper Galilee, and will attend the new sound and light show at Beit She'an National Park and, of course, the Klezmer Festival in Safed.

Not surprisingly MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) is passing on the Klezmer Festival. He did, however, pay a short visit to Jordan. He says his Knesset break started out badly, because he took the death of poet Mahmoud Darwish very hard, and he might not have time for a family vacation before the new school year starts.

Former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) had a busy work week that included a meeting between the Knesset Finance Committee and the Israel Securities Authority, a day-long seminar marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Herut movement (a precursor to the Likud), the launch of a book in honor of Yitzhak Shamir and a symposium on public health. Rivlin has a trip abroad waiting in September, when he travels to Toronto to represent the Knesset at an interparliamentary meeting.

Some of the lawmakers have quite extensive non-parliamentary political obligations just now. The members of the Kadima faction have the primary on the way, while MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) and Dov Khenin (Hadash) have municipal elections to contend with, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv respectively. If they win, they will not be returning to the Knesset.

According to Rivlin, in contrast to previous local-authority election campaigns, this time the candidates are not interested in being seen with Knesset members.

The law states that the Knesset must be in session for eight months a year. The MKs are now on a three-month break, which will end following the Jewish holidays and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, most of which falls in September.

The Knesset also enjoyed a break of about six weeks around Passover. In fact the Knesset has just over 100 session days per year. A document prepared by Sheila Hattis Rolef of the Knesset Research and Information Center reveals that some parliaments work more. Italian lawmakers, for example, only take a seven-week break. However, some work less - the Russian parliament, for example, only meets twice a month.