Israel’s first deaf lawmaker: activist Shirley Pinto

In early June, Pinto enthusiastically expressed her support for the change government.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Activist Shirley Pinto from the Yemina party is set to become Israel’s first deaf member of the Knesset, as new Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana will resign under the Norwegian Law.

The Norwegian Law permits government ministers to resign from the Knesset, allowing the next candidate on their party list to take their place.

If they leave their ministerial position, they automatically regain their seat in the Knesset and the replacement candidates lose their role.

Pinto, 32, is a longtime disability rights activist. Born to two deaf parents, she is married to an American-born deaf man and has a son.

In 2016, Pinto launched a social media campaign focused on promoting sign language called, “I sign, I am equal.”

The campaign caught the eye of then-Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who recruited Pinto to the Yemina party. She served as the World Zionist Congress representative for Yemina

She previously interned with Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar, who uses a wheelchair, and helped draft campaigns aimed at raising public awareness around disability in Israel.

Elharrar will serve as Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources in the new government.

During a March 2021 appearance on talk show Ofira and Berkovitch, Pinto criticized what she saw as the Israeli government’s lack of outreach to people with disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There was a recent report in which they found that Israel came in 50th place internationally when it came to providing information [during the crisis] to people with disabilities,” she said via an interpreter.

“The State of Israel doesn’t consider this a priority. They don’t care…It’s the Israeli personality. Whoever has their elbows out, who yells the loudest, ends up talking the most.”

Speaking in an interview with Channel 12 News in early June, Pinto enthusiastically expressed her support for the change government.

At that time, rebel Yemina MK Amichai Chikli announced that he would vote against the government, and MK Nir Orbach appeared to be on the fence about whether or not to support the change coalition.

Pinto said that if either man resigned, she would be happy to vote in favor.