Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and President Shimon Peres hosted a group of 20 Israeli teenagers in the Knesset plenum after Tu B'Shvat, encouraging the young people to take part in Israeli public service.
The students were invited to morning debates as part of the Knesset's 61st birthday celebration.
Some of the students were given the opportunity to make one-minute speeches, which they used to urge Knesset members to focus on issues of importance to them. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni, Rivlin, Peres, and others were present for the speeches.
Youths from all groups
The first was Dana Gavrieli, an 11th grader at the Echad HaAm school in Petach Tikva. She made history as the first citizen who is not a member of Knesset, minister or leader of a foreign government, to speak on the Knesset plenum. She used her minute to discourage IDF soldiers from making "political decisions" in the army which would cause them to disobey orders given by their commanders. "Refusers are criminals who undermine the foundations of democracy," she said.
Gavrieli was immediately rebutted by Daniel Kowalski, a student at the non religious Leo Beck school in Haifa. "It is known that for every law there is an exception," he said. "This is the greatness of society: to see the rule, to see the individual."
Mayan Segal, a Jerusalem high school student with physical disabilities, moved Knesset members with her address on public sensitivity to people with disabilities and matters of accessibility.
A religious student from the girls' high school of Kfar Pines called on Knesset members to apply Israeli law to the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria,as Israel had to Arab areas it conquered in 1948. She said that Israelis moved to Judea and Samaria with government support and encouragement and therefore it is the government's duty to apply sovereignty there.
Arab student Raed Haj Yahya from Taibeh called on officials to work for the rights of Arab residents of Israel. Another Arab student from Kfar Kana, Aisrah Sabah, attended the event in traditional garb, and asked the Knesset to prohibit teenagers from drinking alcohol. Arab MK Ahmed Tibi quoted the Talmudic saying that a person is not jealous of his son and his students, so he is introducing the people who will probably compete for his Knesset seat in a few years.
'Together we will bring redemption'
A student from the Science and Torah Yeshiva (Torah uMada) said that his family was expelled from the Katif Bloc and told the Knesset how they have no permanent home after over four years. He asked Israelis to remember with sympathy and understanding the terrible act that was done to the Katif Bloc citizens of Israel.
Another Torah uMada student claimed that Israel has to be a country where values are of supreme importance. He said that in the dilemma over whether freedom of expression is more important than limiting internet exposure of young people to unsuitable material, the value of not corrupting innocent youngsters must come first.
Israel Aryeh Leib Becher, a young Chabad-hassidic Jew and the son of Chabad emissaries from Givat Ze'ev, discussed the great importance of taking time to do physical or spiritual good for another Jew, as taught by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He encouraged Knesset members to be sure their focus is on giving to the Israeli public, and told them that "together we will bring the real and full redemption very soon."
After the speeches, President Peres encouraged the students to "take part in political life. Prime Minister Netanyahu told them that he is "willing to bet" that in a few years' time, at least one of them will become a Knesset member.
President Peres finished by saying "We had a refreshing and unique experience. You brought us, on Tu B'Shvat, the best fruits in the State of Israel. The young generation has made its voice heard, and there is something to be heard."
Following the event, a lunch was held, as well as a festive prayer service at the Knesset synagogue, attended by the Knesset Speaker, the Chief Rabbis of Israel, and the Knesset Director General, in honor of Tu B'Shvat.