(JNS.org)

Israeli Knesset Member Cotler-Wunsh: A Story of True Perseverance

Zionist, immigrant, feminist, and activist: Michal Colter-Wunsh, an Israeli Knesset member from the Blue and White Party, fits each of these descriptors. Colter-Wunsh was born in Israel, grew up in Canada, and returned to Israel to serve as a lone soldier in the IDF. From these formative experiences, she understands life as an immigrant and values diverse perspectives. 

Colter-Wunsh received her Bachelor of Law from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and her Masters of Law from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Possessing a fervent passion for human rights and government policy, Colter-Wunsh studied democratic theories, multiculturalism, and power imbalances in mediation. Her journey to becoming a Knesset member was one of resilience, as Colter-Wunsh ran for a seat in Parliament three times: April 2019, September 2019, and March 2020. She finally gained her spot on June 19, 2020, replacing Alon Schuster after he was appointed to the cabinet. Colter-Wunsh is currently one of 37 women in Knesset out of 120 Knesset members, a testament to her perseverance and advocacy for women’s voice in government decision making. 

Colter-Wunsh has always taken a strong stance against anti-Semitism. Most notably, in the Knesset, she has demanded that social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and TikTok take responsibility for rooting out posts and content that are clearly anti-Semitic, even while promoting and defending free speech. In a passionate statement made at the Knesset, Colter-Wunsh tackled the issue of anti-Semitism accountability, stating that “in order to address the problem we first have to define it.” In addition, she noted that social media has become a dangerous safe haven for blatant anti-Semitism and, therefore, necessitates that the Israeli Parliament and Knesset members “look at the challenge with regards to the digital platforms generally.”

Colter-Wunsh also advocates relentlessly for the justice and dignity of returning captured Israelis, dead or alive, from the Gaza Strip. Prior to serving in the Knesset, Colter-Wunsh worked as a research fellow at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism and as a legal advisor to the Goldin family, as she is committed to returning captured Israeli soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, as well as Israeli civilians Avera Mangistu and Hisham al-Sayed. Colter-Wunsh’s life story is one of perseverance, advocacy, and representation, which inspires others to emulate her activism.

On December 27, L’Chaim, an organization that aims to provide a voice for Jewish high school students in the tri-state area on topics such as Israel and anti-Semitism, hosted a live Q&A with Colter-Wunsh. The meeting’s goal was to inform high school students about anti-Semitism and equip them with some tools necessary to combat it.  Colter-Wunsh ended the webinar by quoting the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, stating, “Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. Hope is the belief that we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope is an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to hope.” With this important message, MK Cotler-Wunsh reminded all of the students in the audience of the importance for youth action against anti-Semitism, and as she stated, “it takes a network to beat a network.”

Sarah Phillips is a sophomore at the Spence School in New York. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens.

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