How real change happens

The Yesh Atid Knesset member says it happens by knowing the system and putting people first

The cynicism that surrounds the election campaign sometimes makes us forget how important its consequences are for our lives. It impacts the way the future of this country will look for ourselves and for our children. Therefore, before we all go to the ballot box, I’ve decided to try to change the discourse. Let’s stop the horserace, and talk about essence; ideology and responsibility.

A little about myself. My name is Karine Elharrar. I am married to Yaron and mother of Yoav who is almost two years old. I started my professional career as a lawyer. I did my internship in a big fancy office where I handled tough cases and was on my way to fulfill my childhood dream of ‘LA Law’– the whole package. We worked very hard, we won many cases and it seemed everything was great.

Very quickly I started getting a strange feeling. I felt that the knowledge I held — the same knowledge that allowed me to make the rich client richer — could be redirected towards another course, a better one, a more important one.

So, I stopped.

The rest of my career as a lawyer was dedicated to social issues through the legal clinics at Bar Ilan University, The Movement for Fighting Poverty in Israel, and other organizations. I represented those who cannot afford a lawyer in their battle against the Social Security Institute, local authorities and in the courts. I devoted most of my time to people with disabilities and their families. As someone dealing with a disability myself, I understood their needs, and, as a lawyer I understood the system.

Karin Elharar (Photo: courtesy of Karin Elharar)
Karin Elharar (Photo: courtesy of Karin Elharar)

I fought and fought for individuals and families and helped them exercise their rights. More than once we achieved precedence in judgments that set the stage for other citizens in future cases. It was amazing and rewarding, but again in time I felt frustrated. I felt that the endless war against bureaucracy and against a government system that refused to change was failing to make the real difference.

I decided to change from within.

I am not a politician in the traditional sense of the word. I was looking for a real political ‘home’ that would work towards actual achievements and make a real difference. I was looking for a party that would help me realize my vision of a country that supports its citizens, rather than forcing them to chase after what they deserve.

That is why I joined Yesh Atid. I saw in Yair Lapid the desire to make a real change. He was not just another politician seeking a seat for himself or in pursuit of power. I saw a group of successful people who were willing to sacrifice their very comfortable pre-Knesset lives in order to make Israel a better place-each one in their respective fields. I wanted to be a part of it.

When Yesh Atid was elected to the Knesset, we fought for and received the offices that determine and influence our daily lives — education, welfare, health and, of course, the Ministry of Finance. In my fight for the rights of people with disabilities, I had full support and backing from all the members of Yesh Atid. Together with the party’s ministers, we have taken significant steps such as providing access to medical services, reducing bureaucracy and improving the quality of health and welfare services.

We granted an extra allocation of 1,000 NIS per month for children with severe disabilities, we canceled the discrimination against people with disabilities for affordable housing criteria and we gave maternity benefits for men whose wives are homemakers who cannot care for the child alone. We have dramatically increased the implementation of the ‘Dorner report’ which calls for the integration of children with disabilities in schools; we have shortened the summer vacation in rehabilitative daycare centers, and expanded the scope of medical assistance during July so that children with disabilities can participate in summer camps.

We achieved all this in only one year and eight months. Imagine what we could do with a full four years. True, this term ended earlier than expected. We had dozens of reforms which were stopped. Some of these will continue from the same point after the election and for others we will have to start over. The frustration was, and still is, great.

But, we are here to stay and will not give up. We promise to continue at full force and fight for what we believe in. We will continue fighting for the middle class and those struggling to join it, for young couples, for Holocaust survivors, for the LGBT community and yes, for people with disabilities.

Please, don’t give in to cynicism and to those who don’t believe that real change can happen. And please do not fall for empty slogans. Ask questions, be interested and engaged and find out who really came to work for you.

I am sure you will make the right decision.

About the Author
Karin Elharar is a Knesset member in the Yesh Atid party.
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