Avi Wortzman
Avi WortzmanIsrael news photo: Flash 90

MK Avi Wortzman of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party gave his first speech in Knesset on Tuesday. Wortzman took the opportunity to focus on issues that do not always make the headlines: developing the Negev and Galilee, Zionism and poverty.

Israel must set a goal of creating an alternative to the Tel Aviv region, he began. Creating the right infrastructure in the Negev and Galilee would make those regions more attractive to young couples, he said.

“This is the time to create the proper foundation of transportation, education, and housing, to create an option for residing outside Gush Dan,” he declared.

The sharp increase in housing prices in recent years, particularly in the Tel Aviv region, was a key issue in the cost of living protests of 2011 and 2012.

Wortzman also called to “strengthen Jewish identity and Zionism among Israeli youth.” He suggested a program “that combines Bible [Tanach] and Palmach.”

He then turned to focus on poverty, an issue he faced as the city official responsible for welfare in Be’er Sheva. “Poverty and deprivation are something I am familiar with, not just through a computer screen… I saw them up close, through a piece of meat in a small child’s pocket,” he said.

“A small four-year-old boy, who we noticed that when lunch was served in daycare, a lunch with rice and chicken, the chicken would disappear mysteriously from his plate, and only then he would slowly eat the rice,” he recalled. “We didn’t understand. The teacher asked, ‘Sweetie, where’s the chicken?’ The child squirmed in his seat and stayed quiet.

“The teacher looked for the chicken on the floor around him, until she suddenly saw it peeking out of his pocket. The teacher asked him, ‘Why did you do that?’ And the embarrassed reply was: I eat the rice here, but the chicken I take home to mommy, so that she can have something to eat, too,” he said.

Finishing the story, Wortzman said that he took care to ensure that the mother and child would have food, but that their story continued to haunt him. “It gives me no peace,” he said. “I want to be here, in this hall, so that little children will have food to eat, so that the needy will have a voice.”