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Letters from Camp: Modeling the Knesset

Read this story in the iCenter for Israel Education

Under what circumstances might the Likud party join forces with Meretz? Or Shas with the Jewish Home?

Campers at BBYO Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) are confronting these questions this summer, thanks to the new Model Knesset program.

Goodman Educators Tamar Sternfeld and Rachel Meytin developed the program as part of BBYO’s participation in the Goodman Camping Initiative for Modern Israel History. Campers are divided into groups representing the main political parties in the Knesset, and after learning about their party’s platform, they introduce bills for consideration and, ultimately, a vote.

In the process, campers learn about Israel’s rough-and-tumble multiparty democracy, the need to garner support from sometimes-unexpected quarters and the reality of building coalitions in which each party has its own priorities and goals. The negotiations in this program can be intense, as participants strive to build support while sticking within the boundaries of realistic behavior for each Israeli political party.

“Our mock Knesset program gives teens the opportunity to put into practice many of the leadership skills they have been learning in our programs,” said Tamar Sternfeld. “Whether they are having to effectively communicate their party’s platform, work through some potential deal breakers to make coalitions, or even get past their own personal beliefs to assume the identity of a Member of Knesset, this program gives the teens practice with real-world life-skills that will help them in the future, all while learning about the Knesset and Israel’s multi-party political system.”

CLTC has broadened participants’ awareness of the similarities and differences between Israeli and American lawmaking processes, anchoring participants’ understanding of the democratic principles that shape Israeli life. The Model Knesset program offers Israel educators across all settings an experiential way to help young people consider how multiple perspectives come together to inform Israel’s vibrant democracy.

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