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Round and Round: Understanding Israel’s Ongoing Election Saga

March 14, 2021 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm


On March 23 Israelis will head to the polls for the fourth time in less than two years. Hear our panel of prominent Israeli “insiders” unpack how Israeli elections work, how Israeli politics impact Diaspora Jewry, what issues will define this election, and how the structure of the electoral system has contributed to this lack of stability.

Facilitated by Rich Walter, VP of Programs and Grantmaking – Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

Chairman of the Executive - The Jewish Agency forIsrael

Isaac Herzog

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Isaac Herzog, son of the sixth President of Israel Chaim Herzog, grandson of Israel's first Chief Rabbi, Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog and nephew of Israel's former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, was born in Israel in 1960.
Mr. Herzog was appointed Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel in June 2018. Before entering his position at The Jewish Agency, Mr. Herzog served as Member of Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) since 2003. He served as the Chairman of the Israeli
Labor Party since 2013, as well as the Knesset Opposition Leader.

In 2015, Mr. Herzog was a front-runner to win the election for Israel’s Prime Minister. He led the alliance between the Labor Party and the Hatnua Party to create Israel’s largest center-left political party, and was the leading candidate to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the national elections.

Over the past 15 years, Mr. Herzog has held several Ministerial posts: Minister of Housing and Construction; Minister of Tourism; Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Society and the Fight Against Anti-Semitism; Minister of Welfare and Social Services, as well as Member of the Security Cabinet. He also served as Government Secretary and as the Government of Israel Coordinator for the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza in 2008-2009.

Before entering politics, Mr. Herzog was a senior partner at the law firm of Herzog, Fox & Ne’eman. He lives in Tel Aviv with his wife, Michal. They have three sons.

Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs

Omer Yankelevitch


Omer Yankelevitch is the State of Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs and member of the Knesset. A lawyer and community organizer, Minister Yankelevitch worked as a teacher and mediator. Yankelevitch is the founding director of the "Just Begun" Foundation, a groundbreaking NGO that empowers minority communities from within Israel to integrate further into Israeli society . The minister was a dedicated public servant for many years before entering politics. Yankelevitch is the first female Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) minister to serve in the Government of Israel. She and her husband, Yaron, live in Beit Shemesh with their five children.
Israel Institute Visiting Professor, Dept. of Political Science - Duke University

Nachman Shai


Dr. Nachman Shai
Israel Institute Visiting Professor
Dept. of Political Science
Duke University

Dr. Nachman Shai is currently an Israeli Institute Visiting Professor at Duke University and a candidate on the Labor Party list in the upcoming March Knesset elections. He spent 2019-2020 as a Visiting Professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

Nachman was a Member of Knesset from 2009 to 2019. He was the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset during the 19th and 20th Knessets. Prior to his election to the Knesset, he held diverse positions in the military, the media, the diplomatic and the public arenas. These include: Senior V.P. and Director General, Israel, UJC (United Jewish Communities of North America, known today as JFNA); Director General of the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sport; Israel Defense Force Spokesperson, with the rank of Brigadier General, Commander and Editor in Chief, Galei Zahal; Communications Advisor to the Minister of Defense Yitzhak Rabin and Moshe Arens; Director General of the Second Television and Radio Authority; Chairman of the Board of Directors of Channel 2 News Company and Chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA). He has served as press secretary of the Israel Mission to the UN in New York, press advisor to the Israeli Embassy in Washington and has worked as a reporter in the print and electronic media.

Nachman holds a Ph.D. in political science and communications from Bar Ilan University and his thesis, on "Public Diplomacy and Low Intensity Conflict", was awarded the 2012 "Tshetshik" award for national security research by Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. He received his MA degree, cum laude, from the Communications Institute of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also completed advanced studies at the World Press Institute, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Nachman has been a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Chairman of the Subcommittee for National planning and a member of the Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality. He chaired the following Caucuses: the Caucus for US-Israel Relations, the Caucus for Strengthening the Jewish People, the Caucus for the Promotion of Israel’s Public Diplomacy, the Caucus for the Elderly, the Caucus for Jerusalem, the Caucus for the Struggle Against the De-legitimization of the State of Israel, the Caucus for Strengthening Israel`s Foreign Affairs System. Nachman Chaired the Israel-Germany Parliamentary Friendship Group and is Head of the Knesset Delegation to the IPU (International Parliamentary Union).

In 2013 he published his first book "Media Wars". The book deals with the development of the new public diplomacy and its place in the battle between states and terrorist and guerilla organizations. The book won the 2013 "Yitzhak Sadeh" Prize for military literature. In 2016 he published his second book "Caught in the Net", and in 2018 his third book “Hearts and Minds” Israel and the Battle for Public Opinion, the meeting point between the worlds of wars and diplomacy. And one of the first to discuss Israel's struggle with The BDS movement.

Member of Knesset

Ruth Wasserman Lande


Ruth was born in Israel and raised in Cape Town, South Africa.
After arriving in Israel, she graduated, cum laude, in International Relations and Communications from Bar Ilan University. She completed, Magna cum
laude, her Master of Arts in International Relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 2006, she was awarded a Wexner Fellowship to study for a Masters’ Degree in Public Administration at Harvard University, from where she graduated, cum laude in June 2007 Ruth served for three years as an analyst in Israeli Defense Force intelligence, rising to the rank of Captain. Ruth continues to do reserve duty as an analyst in the IDF.

Professionally, Ruth served as an Israeli diplomat for 13 years in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and was appointed to serve for three years, as the political and economic advisor in the Israeli embassy in Cairo, completing her service there as the de facto Deputy Chief of Mission. After graduation from Harvard, Ruth was appointed as Foreign Affairs and World Jewish Affairs’ advisor to former President of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres. She served for almost a decade as the Deputy Director General of the Israeli Federation of Local Governments, working with all Israeli Mayors, both Jewish and Arab, throughout the country.
Ms Wasserman Lande worked, on a voluntary basis, on the promotion and development of one of Israel’s poorest, mixed Jewish-Arab cities in Israel, Lod, where she also lived for a decade with her husband and three children. She has also founded (2018) and continues to chair the "Hagshama" initiative, a non-for-profit and non-political NGO, for creating real impact on Israeli society, via a country-wide initiative to transform one of the Bedouin villages in the North of the country into a model for emulation. That is, in coordination with its elected leadership, government ministries, philanthropists, businesspeople and the local community.
In July 2019, Ruth established her own strategic local and global consultancy which assists a wide variety of bodies and/or individuals -both Israeli and foreign- in identifying their needs, creating policy, establishing objectives and accompanying their accomplishment and fulfillment.

She is also a columnist in one of Israel’s leading dailies, in Hebrew, “Maariv”, and in the Englishlanguage “Jerusalem Post”. Ruth also often commentates on Regional and Arab-Israeli Affairs in local and international television channels.

Ruth has recently entered the Israeli Knesset as an MK, representing the Blue and White party.
She speaks Hebrew, English, Russian and Arabic.

Secretary General, Director of External Relations - The Jewish Agency for Israel

Josh Schwarcz


A graduate of Columbia University in New York, Josh Schwarcz serves as the Secretary General of The Jewish Agency for Israel.

He is also the founding head of the Jewish Agency's Security Assistance Fund for Jewish Communities and the Director of the Government of Israel's Forum for Emergency Assistance to Jewish Communities.

In a volunteer capacity, he serves on the board of the Israel Museum where he is chairman of the Marketing Committee. He is also a memember of the board of Amigour Public Housing and is a memember of the Steering Committees of Birthright Israel and Masa Israel Journey.

Previously, he served as the Director of Public Affairs at Peace Watch and was an official observer to the first Palestinian elections. In addition, he was the Director of Invitees at the Israeli Presidential Conference of President Shimon Peres.

Mr. Schwarcz was born in Canada and made Aliyah at the age of 20. He served as a reserve officer in the Israel Deferse Forces.

Questions? Contact Keren Rosenberg at krosenberg@jewishatlanta.org.


March 14, 2021
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
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