A campus tour brought American-born journalist Lahav Harkov full circle as she visited colleges across the United States to speak about Israeli politics.
Harkov, senior contributing editor at The Jerusalem Post, spoke to 60 pro-Israel advocates on Nov. 1 at Washington University in St. Louis. She opened with a brief overview of the Knesset, the legislative branch of the Israeli government, before transitioning into descriptions of the parties.
The event was co-sponsored by WashU Hillel, a Hillel-advised organization called the WashU Israel Public Affairs Committee (WIPAC) and CAMERA.
“I write and report in English in Israel, where most people speak Hebrew,” Harkov said. “The politicians that I’m reporting on are not necessarily reading what I report, and they often don’t understand the importance of it. It just means I have to work harder, and I do.”
Harkov, a New Jersey native, made aliyah after high school, went to college in Israel and then started working for The Jerusalem Post.
Formerly the senior Knesset reporter for The Jerusalem Post, Harkov is a Knesset whiz. During her one-hour presentation, she used only a single slide with a graphic of the Knesset parties.
Nate Turk, WIPAC president and WashU’s CAMERA fellow, said he was thrilled that Harkov came to St. Louis.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for people at WashU to hear from someone who has worked in the Knesset about diversity within the Knesset,” Turk, 21, said.
The highlight of the speech for Turk was learning about how Israeli political parties form around current issues, a stark contrast to the U.S. two-party system. Harkov told students that each party needs over 2.5 percent of the vote in order to get at least one of the 120 Knesset seats.
WIPAC’s Programmatic Innovation Chair Olivia Butler, 19, said she found the discussion fascinating.
“Israel is often presented as having this unanimous system of internal politics, as just having one view,” she said. “I like that [Harkov] was talking about how there are more than 30 different political parties in Israel with such diverse opinions.”
Harkov’s speech was followed by a question and answer session. One student asked about women in the Knesset.
“Israel has 36 women in the Knesset, which brings us up to a better proportion than the U.S,” Harkov said. “It used to be that the military was a huge jumping off point into politics in Israel, and it is becoming less and less so over the years. That gives women more options.”
She added, “The more successful women there are in Israeli politics, the more it will encourage more women to come in. And there’s definitely rising stars in a lot of the parties who are female. In Labor, in the Zionist Union, a lot of the prominent figures right now are women.”
The event concluded with a smattering of applause. Over the noise, Harkov said, “If you have more questions, you can Tweet them at me!” Harkov posts daily to her handle @LahavHarkov.
Four students joined Harkov for dinner after the event. In this more intimate setting, the students learned more about Harkov’s background, especially her experience making aliyah. The group also discussed current events including a recent protest of Israel on campus and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, which happened five days before Harkov spoke at WashU.
“A shooting happening shouldn’t be the reason why we have a State of Israel,” Butler said, paraphrasing the conversation. “Jews’ right to Israel is so much more than a need for protection against violence. It’s something deeply rooted, and it goes further back than a fight against anti-Semitism.”
Turk said he was grateful that WIPAC members were able to hear Harkov speak and join her for dinner.
“WIPAC is very focused on building a stronger US-Israel relationship,” he said. “Being able to get the inside scoop on some of the recent happenings in Israel was very valuable because that also affects the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
-- Kayla Steinberg