On January 27, OneVoice held its second English-language “Peace Pays Off at the Bar” event at Patrick’s Pub in central Tel Aviv to attract Israel’s international community. The guest speaker was Daniel Ben-Simon, acclaimed journalist and former Member of Knesset for the Labor Party. The event brought in over 50 English-speaking attendees from Israel, the United States, Canada, Russia, and more.
There was a buzz of anticipation about the room as a steady stream of attendees arrived, pulled up chairs close to the stage. “I’m here because I saw the event on Facebook and thought it looked interesting,” said Ethan, 22, a local journalist originally from New York. “I also have friends attending the event, which made it more likely for me to come.”
OVI’s Sharon Siegel, the event organizer, brought the crowd to attention and introduced the theme of Ben-Simon’s talk: the upcoming elections. “Whether you are here for only a short period of time, or you’re planning to stay here long-term, you can get involved,” she said.
When Ben-Simon took the stage, he was quick to emphasize the importance of Israel’s March 17 election. “This election will change the face of Israel and the history of Israel,” he said, “but most people are too angry or disinterested to vote.”
Ben-Simon revealed what he believes to be the most important issue in the election: “what to do with the West Bank.” He went on to speculate that, in the discourse around the elections, the West Bank is likely to be overlooked in favor of the economy. “Most Israelis don’t feel the lack of a Palestinian state, but they do feel that their living standard has lowered so much over the last few years that they cannot afford another four years of this economy.”
During his talk, Ben-Simon criticized the government’s unwillingness to negotiate with Israel’s Arab neighbors. “You cannot close the window and say you do not see anything. We need to open Israel and be a part of this region.”
Other topics of Ben-Simon’s talk included an indictment of the religious right for stalling negotiations with the Palestinians, and the practice of recruiting celebrities to serve in political parties as a way of garnering votes. “If you have more celebrities you can get more votes, it makes a parody of the Knesset.”
In the end, Ben-Simon restated the importance of the upcoming election and urged everyone to get involved and vote. “The political game can determine how we live and if we live.”
After his talk, Ben-Simon answered a few questions from the audience, and was followed by Guy Simon, a representative of the non-profit agency, Kol Oleh, which brings information about Israeli politics and the upcoming election to English-speaking immigrants. Simon presented information about several political parties that will be important in the upcoming elections and the key issues of their platforms.
“I think these things are necessary for new immigrants - helping them figure out how to navigate the political process,” said Riana, an attendee at the event. Cydney, a photographer from Atlanta attending the event, said, “For someone like me, who is considering moving to Israel, I think it’s important to be aware of what is going in in Israeli politics. I’m definitely glad I came.”
Guy Simon of Kol Oleh speaks to audience members about the Israeli elections.
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