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Shirley Pinto, the first-ever deaf MK, is sworn into Knesset using sign language

PM Bennett lauds ‘one of the most meaningful moments for me,’ as Yamina lawmaker joins parliament under the ‘Norwegian law’ following resignation of a party minister

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

  • Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member, during a swearing-in ceremony of new Israeli parliament members at the Knesset on June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
    Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member, during a swearing-in ceremony of new Israeli parliament members at the Knesset on June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Yamina MK Shirley Pinto communicate via sign language on the Knesset floor on June 16, 2021. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Yamina MK Shirley Pinto communicate via sign language on the Knesset floor on June 16, 2021. (Noam Moskowitz/Knesset)
  • Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member, with fellow Yamina MK Idit Silman during a swearing-in ceremony of new Israeli parliament members at the Knesset on June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member, with fellow Yamina MK Idit Silman during a swearing-in ceremony of new Israeli parliament members at the Knesset on June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member, during a swearing-in ceremony of new Israeli parliament members at the Knesset on June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member, during a swearing-in ceremony of new Israeli parliament members at the Knesset on June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other MKs during a swearing-in ceremony of new Israeli parliament members at the Knesset, June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Shirley Pinto, the first deaf Knesset member, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other MKs during a swearing-in ceremony of new Israeli parliament members at the Knesset, June 16, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shirley Pinto, the first deaf member of Knesset, was sworn into office Wednesday morning using sign language.

Pinto, an MK from Yamina, entered the Israeli parliament following the resignation of one of the party’s ministers through the “Norwegian Law,” which allows any MK who is appointed to a cabinet post to step down temporarily from the Knesset, thereby permitting the next candidate on the party’s slate to enter parliament in their stead.

Knesset Secretary-General Yardena Meller-Horowitz called Pinto’s name in the plenum, and the lawmaker stood and, in both sign language and spoken Hebrew, swore her allegiance to the Knesset.

Pinto is a long-time activist for disability-related issues, particularly those dealing with the hearing-impaired, and serves as Yamina’s representative in the World Zionist Congress.

She joined the party — then called New Right — in early 2019 on its slate of candidates, but the party failed to cross the electoral threshold.

Upon joining the party, Pinto said that she would “continue to work with all my might, as I have in the past, for people with disabilities in Israel and to be your force in the Knesset with the goal of making Israel an accessible, equal, and inclusive society.”

Newly appointed Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, a member of Yesh Atid, uses a wheelchair and is also a longtime activist for the rights of people with disabilities.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of Yamina, congratulated Pinto and commended the historic occasion.

“One of the most meaningful moments for me — for all of us,” he tweeted after she was sworn in. “My dear Shirley, I am so proud of you.”

Fifteen other new MKs have been or will be sworn in this week under the Norwegian Law following the establishment of the government on Sunday evening. All three of Yisrael Beytenu’s ministers are giving up their Knessets seats, as are three of the four Blue and White ministers. In Yesh Atid, only two ministers will resign from Knesset, the same number as in New Hope. Two ministers in Meretz are resigning and just one of Labor’s three ministers is as well.

In the past, lawmakers of opposition parties — including Yamina and Yesh Atid — argued against implementing the Norwegian Law, claiming that it massively increased government expenditures.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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