Issue of Sabbath Television Injected into Formal Opening of 7th Knesset

The issue of Sabbath television was injected into the formal opening of the seventh Knesset today touching off a shouting match between the leader of the Orthodox Agudat Israel faction, Rabbi Itshak Meir Levin, and Uri Avneri, of the Haolam Hazeh faction. Rabbi Levin brought the matter up in the course of delivering the first address before the new Knesset. It is an honor that Knesset tradition accords the oldest member, in this instance Rabbi Levin, who is 76. Former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, who is seven years older, waived the privilege earlier on grounds that the occasion was not one for a political attack on Premier Golda Meir which he felt he would have to make.

Rabbi Levin, however, saw fit to bring up the “evils” of television and the “desecration” of the Sabbath by Israel’s Supreme Court. At that point Mr. Avneri shouted from the floor that the speaker was exploiting a non-political occasion for political purposes. Other members of Agudat Israel took up the cudgels for Rabbi Levin and the chamber echoed with shouts for some time before order was restored. Some members complained later that Rabbi Levin’s Ashkenazic (East European) pronunciation of Hebrew made it difficult for them to understand what he was saying.

Generally, however, the opening went smoothly. President Zalman Shazar opened the session with a review of events during the tenure of the last (sixth) Knesset and delivered a eulogy for those Knesset members who died, among then the late Premier Levi Eshkol. He turned the floor over to Rabbi Levin acting in the capacity of Knesset elder. Rabbi Levin took the oath of office–a declaration of loyalty with no religious connotations–and then administered it to his 119 fellow Knesset members. The Knesset then elected Reuben Barkatt of the Labor Party-Mapam Alightment as its new speaker. It has yet to elect eight deputy speakers, one of whom is expected to be an Israeli Arab, Seif El Din Zuabi, the first Arab to hold that post.

The next order of business will be the election of nine permanent Knesset committees. The number and composition of each committee will be decided by an arrangements committee consisting of representatives of all factions in the Knesset. The election of committee chairman may encounter complications if some of those selected are members of the outgoing Cabinet who will not be included in the new one.

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