Yes We Can! Jumping Into the Israeli Knesset

The Israeli Knesset that was elected in 2015 has representatives from 10 political parties and way more personalities than any one building can usually handle. It may seem like an impossible task to make the Knesset relevant and interesting to teens today -- but creating a mock Knesset allows teens to do many of the things they love most: negotiating, arguing, striking deals, breaking deals and trying to get their way. And BBYO's CLTC staff has created the step-by-step tools to make the program a success.

Curriculum Themes: 

Materials Required: 

Program Duration: 

Physical Space: 

Number of Campers: 

Age of Campers: 

Core Learnings: 

Participants will be able to formulate their own opinions on Israeli issues
Participants will be able to identify the major players, issues, and challenges of the process.
Participants will be able to understand that Israel is a diverse society that often requires compromises.
Participants will be able to understand Israel’s value of human rights.

Explanation: 

Time Table:            

  • 00:00 – 00:05         Group Introduction
  • 00:05 – 00:20         Parties read and discuss their profiles, and discuss their positions on the main issues.
  • 00:20 - 00:40          Parties negotiate and try to form coalitions.
  • 00:40 - 01:00          Final presentations are read and the Knesset votes.
  • 01:00 - 01:15          Return to large group, wrap-up.

Set Up

If possible, tables will  have assigned seats with designated name cards for each political party. Participants will be instructed to sit in their assigned seats. The tables will already have materials spread out, such as pens and background information on the party’s stances.

Pull 10 teen leaders together in advance. Brief them on the program as a whole and assign each to be the leader for one of the parties. Give them their party’s information. Give them an opportunity to do additional research if possible. Answer any questions they may have. When you begin the program, remind them to sit at their assigned party. They’ll lead the first bit of the program, in small groups.

Each party leader should get enough copies of the following for each of the participants in their group.

  • the two page brief explanation of all the political parties
  • the in-depth explanation of their party

Detailed Procedure

Introduction: 0:00-0:05

  • Group facilitator welcomes everyone and gives a brief overview of the program.

PART 1: 0:05 – 0:20  Intro (each group is led by the party leader)

The party leaders (teen leaders you pulled in advance) should:

  • Walk their group through an overview of their party’s platform.
  • Review the four bills that will be up for a vote. Each party should determine how they will vote on each bill. Remember that parties must vote as a block – the number of votes (seats) each party has is listed on the overview sheet.
  • Each party will have an opportunity to publicly support or oppose one bill in front of the full Knesset. Your presentation can be verbal, through posters, a rallying cry, a letter, etc… You’ll have two minutes to present.
  • Plan your negotiations! For a bill to pass, it needs 61 votes. Who can you get to vote with you? What can you offer in order to get them on your side?

PART 2: 00:20 – 00:40  Negotiate

  • This is the fun part. Four bills are up for debate and each party will have the opportunity to vote on each bill. A majority (61) of votes is needed to pass a bill.
  • As soon as the bill is handed out, the politicking begins. Your party should devise a strategy of how to get your bill passed—who to bargain with and who to fight with. As ambassadors for your party, work with the other parties to negotiate passing bills.
  • For example, Shas might decide that they can strike a deal with Likud. They send an ambassador to Likud with the bargaining chip that Shas will vote for Likud's bill if Likud votes for Shas's bill. Another example is: Meretz might send an ambassador to UTJ saying that, if UTJ votes against Yesh Atid's bill, then Meretz will vote for UTJ's bill. 

PART 3: (0:40-1:00) The Knesset Meeting

  • When we call for the Knesset meeting, all bargaining will cease and parties will sit together in the main room for final voting. 
  • Each party may choose one bill to present an argument for or against. You will have up to 2 minutes to make an argument.
  • Each party will be called out, and you will announce how you are voting (For or Against) concerning the bill at hand. Each party must vote as a bloc. After the vote, you'll have the chance to inform the group if there were any deals brokered that influenced your vote.
  • Feel free to break secret deals to advance your own party's interests. This is meant to be a realistic simulation of what really happens in the Knesset!

PART 4: 01:00 – 01:15  Wrap-up

  • Program leader facilitates wrap-up discussion. Ask campers what they learned from the experience, challenge them to describe the process as well as the positions of different parties in the Knesset.

Variations: 

This program can easily be expanded to last much longer. It could be a half-day activity or a full-day activity. If you want to expand it, be sure to include opportuntieis for diverse ways of presenting information. Each party can write, practice and present a cheer or song; poromotional posters can be hung in a central area of camp, advocating for and against various bills; and more. Additionally, with more time to prepare each group's leader can learn more in advance about his or her party's positions and history (shlichim, the GE and Goodman Fellows all can be great resources for this!)

The wrap-up discussion can include an opportunity for campers to discuss their personal opinions on some of the issues that came to a vote during the activity. While role-playing members of Knesset, campers had to tow their party's line, but a follow-up discussion can provide opportunities to stake out personal views and explore the issues from multiple perspectives.

Background Cards: 

Supporting Materials: 

Attribution: 

BBYO - CLTC