This Sunday, the Israeli member of Knesset Adi Kol went to Ramallah, the seat of Palestine's limited self-government. Ramallah, it's fair to note, is in Area A of the West Bank, an area under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority that most Israelis are forbidden from entering by large, red-lettered signs, which they face arrest for violating. Kol was able to enter Ramallah—probably because her vehicle, like most that enter, was not checked. What's harder to understand is how exactly she got out, because on the way back to Israel proper, she, like the Palestinians who live there, had to walk, not drive, through a checkpoint. But it's not her, or any other Israeli's, access she wants to talk about: it's the Palestinians'. And she wants to talk about it on Facebook.
Kol's Facebook post about her trip (translated in full by +972 Magazine's Noam Sheizaf), garnered more than 1,500 "likes" and was close to 500 "shares" by Monday night. In it, she described the Qalandiya checkpoint, calling it "filthy and frozen." She wrote about how a solider snapped at her: "Knesset member? Which Knesset exactly?" She described the feelings of absurdity and insult she felt there, resulting in the Haaretz headline, "Israeli MK gets a taste of Palestinian humiliation at Qalandiyah checkpoint." But the feeling of the post isn't centered on anger about being harassed. Instead, it's full of fear. Kol reflects on the experience of her friend Amjad who lives in Ramallah. Amjad, a Palestinian father "who lives under countless restrictions but insists that he lacks nothing except the safety of his children." Reflecting Amjad's fear Kol writes that she herself is afraid, "afraid that we will continue to live this way, and afraid of the fear."
And Kol is being honest. Before she was an MK, Kol had a career in academia. She got her PhD in Law from Columbia and in 2011 was granted the Knesset Speaker's Award for opening Tel Aviv University's doors to the less privileged through a project called "University Ba'am," or "University of the People." The project's aim was to "break down the 'ivory tower' by opening the gates of the university," enlisting university students help educate marginalized groups—new immigrants, battered women, alienated or at-risk youth, and ethnic minorities. It was a project about breaking down artificial barriers. Kol's mantra? Access.
Access, she said, is something she wanted to give Israelis when it came to the Knesset. In a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post, Kol said that she wanted to teach students how to write letters to the Knesset, and encourage them to visit. At one point she posted on Facebook what could have been a sample letter that one of her students, an Ethiopian single mother of four, had written. It requested that the Knesset pass a law that would mandate the father's involvement with his kids (or send him to jail) and another law that would—in Kol's words—"guard her and her friends against the police, yes police, who take advantage of her distress."
Going to Ramallah proved that Kol doesn't just talk the talk and at least walks somewhere (which might be more than can be said for some Yesh Atid MKs). Her response to the angry Facebook masses was sanguine. Kol seemed to realize those who call her an "Israel hater" and told her to go live in "Gaza, the Jewish state," or announced she was perpetuating a terror Holocaust of Jews, were not of her constituency. Her short response was mostly about how much she wishes she could respond to everyone, but was "at Yad Vashem" and couldn't.
At 37 years old, Kol is by no means the youngest member of the Knesset, though she is younger than the youngest member of the current U.S. Senate (Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut). She may have a long political career ahead of her. A two-stater, Kol believes in one "Jewish, Zionist" and one Palestinian state. She is for talks with the Palestinians as soon as possible. One Facebook commenter posed the million dollar question to Kol. Although she is physically and rhetorically in the right place, the questioner asked about the alliance of Yesh Atid with the Jewish Home party: "How does all of this work out now that you has made a pact with an extreme right party?" That question, I'm afraid, has yet to be answered. Not even on Facebook.