Israeli Parliament Celebrates Democracy

Jerusalem, Feb. 8 – Israel’s parliament is celebrating its 63rd anniversary Wednesday as it welcomes the latest woman lawmaker to head a political party.

Knesset member Zahava Galon triumphed in the primaries of the Meretz party, joining opposition leader Tzipi Livni of Kadima and Shelly Yachimovich of Labor as the third woman heading a political party in the current session of the Knesset.

Known for its often raucous debates, the home to Israel’s 120 parliamentarians is throwing open its doors to the public for the day with several thousand visitors expected. At least 50 legislators are giving tours to the public, holding workshops and debating sessions with high school students, and holding open debates between government and opposition members on hot topics of the day.

The current Knesset session is the 18th since the founding of the state. Israel uses the proportional representation electoral system, with voters choosing a political party rather than a specific candidate.

There are 13 parties in the current Knesset, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presiding over a government coalition of seven political parties including his own Likud.

The Knesset anniversary falls on the Hebrew date of Tu Bishvat, the 15th day of the month of Shevat, known as the new year for trees. The date is not a national holiday, but is marked by the custom of planting new trees. Hundreds of thousands of students are participating in tree planting hikes across the country.

Tu Bishvat is also honored by Israeli environmental groups that hold green-awareness activities to promote the preservation of Israel’s ecology.

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