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Hebrew Lesson 1
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The word Knesset refers to the Israeli parliament as well as to the parliament building. The word Knesset כנסת means an assembly or a synagogue. The Jewish tradition had an assembly of 120 wise men, such as scribes and prophets, for two centuries, ending about the time of 70 CE. The Knesset is located in Jerusalem. It first convened in 1949. It is the legislative branch of the Israeli government. It has 120 members who are elected every 4 years. The political system in Israel is of a multi-party democratic system. Each party gets proportional representation of seats in the 120 seats of the Knesset. The elections are national, secret and direct. Voters elect the party they want to see form a government. The government serves for 4 years or until the Prime Minister resigns or can't continue to serve. Israel had elections on February 10, 2009 and elected its 18th Knesset.
Plenum / Assembly  me-li-a  מליאה
Most of the Knesset work is done in the Plenum. The members of Knesset sit according to the parliamentary groups in a seating shaped of a menorah. The members of the government sit in the center table. The Plenum has two levels, and the Knesset Plenum meets three times a week in the lower part. The upper part consists of the visitors' galleries. The visitors can be VIPs and invited guests, the press, and the general public.
Legislative branch  ra-shoot me-ho-ke-ket  רשות מחוקקת
The Knesset is the legislative branch that enacts laws and elects the president. Each law must be approved by a majority vote of the Knesset. The Basic Laws of Israel function as an unwritten constitution.
President  na-si (male)  נשיא
nesia (fem.). The Knesset elects the president. After the election, the president calls the Knesset majority member to form a government. Israel's ninth president, who has been in office since 2007, is Shimon Peres, who has mostly ceremonial duties. Ezer Weizman, pictured at right, was elected in 1993 to be the seventh President of Israel.
Prime minister  rosh mem-sha-la  ראש הממשלה
The Prime Minister is a Parliament Member supported by a majority in parliament, usually the chairman of the largest party. The Prime Minister of Israel is the Head of the Government and the chief executive. As such, he is the most powerful political figure in Israel. The Prime Minister since 2009 is Benjamin Netanyahu from the Likud party. David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) was the first Prime Minister of Israel. Israel's fourth Prime Minister, Golda Meir (elected 1969), was the first and only female Prime Minister of Israel. The fifth Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin (1922) was in office until his assassination in 1995. In 1994 he won the Nobel Peace Prize together with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat.
Government  mem-sha-la  ממשלה
The Government serves for 4 years or until the Prime Minister resigns or can't continue to serve. The Government of Israel must be approved by a majority vote of the Knesset. The Government of Israel, also known as the cabinet, is composed of ministers that are chosen and led by the Prime Minister and has to be approved by a vote in the Knesset.
Member of the Knesset  ha-ver kne-set (male)  חבר כנסת
havrat kneset (fem.). havrey kneset (pl.). The Knesset has 120 members that are elected to four-year terms in a secret ballot by Israeli citizens over 18 years old. Golda Meir was elected to the Knesset as a member of Mapai in 1949.
Party  mif-la-ga  מפלגה
miflagot (pl.). The political system in Israel is of a parliament democracy of a multi-party system. Each party gets proportional representation of seats in the 120 seats of the Knesset. Final results of the 2009 elections by number of Knesset seats: Kadima 28, Likud 27, Yisrael Beiteinu 15, Labor Party 13, Shas 11, United Torah Judaism 5, United Arab List-Ta'al 4, National Union 4, Hadash 4, New Movement-Meretz 3, The Jewish Home 3, Balad 3.
Elections  bhi-rot  בחירות
Elections are held every four years or earlier if there are special circumstances. Every Israeli citizen over the age of 18 years old has the right to vote. Israeli elections are: National – the whole country is a single electoral constituency. Direct - the Knesset which is the Israeli parliament is elected directly by the voters. Equal – citizens of at least 18 year of age are eligible to casts one vote. In the 2009 the Knesset elections there were 5,278,985 eligible voters. Secret ballot. Proportional – there are 120 Knesset members that are elected in proportion to each party's percentage of the total national vote with a minimum required for a party to win a Knesset seat is 2% of the total votes cast. In the 18th Knesset there were 33 party lists that competed for seats.
Member of the cabinet  sar mem-sha-la (male)  שר ממשלה
sarat memshala. (fem.). sarey memshala (pl.). Most ministers are members of the Knesset and are heads of government departments, although some are "Ministers without Portfolio". Yitzhak Rabin served as the Minister of Defense From 1984 to 1990. The cabinet meets weekly on Sundays in Jerusalem. The largest cabinet of 30 ministers was formed on 2009. It consisted of a coalition of Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, the Labor Party, The Jewish Home, and the United Torah Judaism.
Committee  va-a-da  וועדה
veadot (pl.). The Knesset committees are of four types: About 12 Permanent Knesset Committees deal with such topics as the advancement of the status of women, law and justice, and the economy. About three Special Knesset Committees deal with topics such as drug abuse and the rights of the child. Parliamentary Inquiry Committees deal with topics of national importance. The Ethics Committee deals with the jurisdiction over Knesset members who have violated ethics rules.
Speaker  yo-shev rosh ha-kne-set (male)  יושב ראש הכנסת
yoshevet rosh hakneset (fem.). The Knesset Speaker is elected by the Plenum and has to conduct the affairs of the Knesset according to its Rules of Procedure. The Speaker holds the votes on resolutions. The Speaker since March 30, 2009 is Reuven Rivlin from the Likud party.
Leader of the Opposition  yo-shev rosh ha-o-po-zitz-ya (male)  
יושב ראש האופוזיציה
yoshevet rosh haopozitzya (fem.). The Leader of the Opposition is the politician who leads the official opposition in the Knesset. Usually it was either the Likud party or the Labor party. The Leader of the Opposition since March 30, 2009 is Tzipi Livni from the Kadima party.
Motion of no-confidence  hats-ba-at ee e-moon  הצבעת אי אמון
A motion of no-confidence can dissolve the government and produce an early election because it is difficult to hold a coalition together. The average time of the Israeli government is 25 months.
Majority vote  hats-ba-at rov  הצבעת רוב
The Government of Israel must be approved by a majority vote of the Knesset and the Knesset can pass any law by a simple majority.
Coalition  ko-a-litz-ya  קואליציה
No party has ever received enough Knesset seats to form a government without a coalition with other smaller parties. Such government must be supported by at least 61 of the 120 Knesset members. Because of this, the smaller parties cooperate to form a coalition government.