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The Power to Make a Difference: SHATIL Sponsors Pre-election Debate on Social Issues

Neta Ben-Porat, 31, doesn’t fit the profile of your typical social activist; she belongs to no organization and works in high tech. But after hearing a talk sponsored by SHATIL's Forum to Abolish the Arrangements Law a year ago about  an all-powerful law that enables the government to circumvent the democratic process, she decided it was time to act. The Arrangements Law, originally enacted as a temporary emergency measure 25 years ago, enables the government to pass laws without Knesset debate.

"I felt it was important to struggle against this law because it does such harm to the democratic structure of the State of Israel", said Ben-Porat, who grew up on kibbutz and lives in Holon. "A lot of the ills that befall our society -- from the care of the mentally ill to utilities reforms -- come from the government's ability to use this law."

Outdoor Fair Before the Debate

Ben-Porat was one of the key organizers of a pre-election debate organized by the Forum Friday at the Suzanne Dalal Center in Tel Aviv. Focusing on social and economic issues, the debate included representatives of the major political parties and was moderated by Orly Vilnai, a popular television news commentator who specializes in social issues.  

More than 100 citizens attended the lively debate, which followed an outdoor fair filled with booths representing political parties and social organizations.

Before becoming involved with the Forum, which includes representatives of Israel's major social change organizations, Ben-Porat volunteered with an organization that collects and distributes food and furniture for the needy.

Audience During the Debate

"I still volunteer with them and I feel it needs to be done, but I know it's only a band aid for the symptoms and not a solution to social and economic problems," she said. "At SHATIL's Forum, I've learned about how the state is run and about the power of ordinary citizens to influence. We all know theoretically that in a democracy, citizens can influence, but most of us don’t do more than vote or go to a demonstration every few years. I've learned about my own ability to make a difference and also about the limits of that ability. I've learned about how politics works in Israel. And I've learned to get to know people who care, which is a refreshing difference from the people I'm surrounded by in daily life."

After all her hard work, how did she feel the debate went? "Although more than 100 people attended, I was hoping for even more. But a friend who came as well as my sisters and my partner were impressed with the turnout, so maybe my expectations were too high. The talks were successful and Orly Vilnai was great. All in all, we learned a lot about the Arrangements Law. It gave me hope to hear Gila Gamliel of the Likud say that we need to incrementally abolish parts of the Arrangements Law until the law itself disappears."


$250 million to Israeli social change groups since 1979.