Prime Minister Netanyahu, Speaker Edelstein plant tree with disabled Knesset employees to celebrate Tu Bishvat and parliament’s 70th birthday

During a ceremony held at the Knesset on Monday, a special delegation from the United States presented Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein with the Champion of the People Award for his efforts towards integrating persons with disabilities into society, and specifically for the Knesset’s emphasis on employing disabled persons.

“This is a great honor for me,” Speaker Edelstein said during the ceremony, while noting that 5% of the Knesset’s workers, 29 people, are persons with disabilities of various types, and more will be employed in the future. Over the past few weeks, he added, the Knesset has granted permanent employee status to seven disabled persons.

“The employment of disabled persons in the Knesset is very successful, and we are proud of it,” Speaker Edelstein said. “The Knesset serves as an example for the public and private sectors, and many people from Israel and abroad visit the Knesset to learn from our experience in this field.”

Knesset Director-General Albert Sakharovich said, “The Knesset allocates many resources for this noble cause, and uses a unique selection process towards this end. The Knesset’s members, employees and visitors are enjoying the fruits [of this initiative], and we plan to expand this important project.”

Chris G. Neeley, chairman of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, an advisory body that provides assistance to the President of the United States and the Secretary of Health and Human Services on public policy issues related to intellectual disability, said “there is much to learn from Israel” in this field.

Gary Kushner, chairman of the Jewish National Fund’s Task Force on Disabilities, lauded the commitment of the Knesset Speaker and parliament’s employees to “such an important cause,” and noted that JNF volunteers across the U.S. have raised $15 million so far for the integration of disabled persons into their respective communities in Israel.

Mira Firestein, director of the Knesset`s Human Resources Department, discussed the various steps in the process of employing disabled persons.