My brother Jacobo was wondering about Latin American members of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament). We knew of only one. So we looked it up. Being such a young country with a high level of immigration, a high percentage of the population was born in the Diaspora, so it’s only natural that it reflects in the government.
As far as we could tell, there have been only three:
- Eliezer Ronnen (Mexico, 8th Knesset)
- Benny Temkin (Mexico, 13th Knesset)
- Yehuda Gilad (Brazil, 15th Knesset)
Let’s put things into perspective:
Argentina is the Latin American country with the largest Jewish population (about five times as much as Mexico) yet no Argentinians have been in the Knesset.
The United States has the largest Jewish population in the Diaspora (twelve times as many as Mexico!) yet only three members of the Knesset were born there (although former Primer Minister Golda Meir grew up in the U.S.).
Another interesting fact is that Benny Temkin was not only born in Mexico, but more specifically in Monterrey (my hometown). This is noteworthy (and a source of pride) because Monterrey has one of the smallest Jewish communities in the world (under 500). I’ve met Benny several times. He and his wife would take us out to lunch a few times while I lived in Israel (and he was in the Knesset and ruling coalition) and at parties back home.