Orly Levy-Abekasis (Hebrew: אורלי לוי-אבקסיס, was born on November 11, 1973, in Beit She’an, the ninth of twelve children of Moroccan-born former Foreign Affairs Minister David Levy. She did her national service in the Israeli Air Force, and later earned a law degree at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
Early in her career, Levy-Abekasis worked as a model and a local television host before following her father into politics.
Levy-Abekasis was first elected to the 18th Knesset as a member of the Yisrael Beitenu Party, and served as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and Chair of the Special Committee for the Rights of the Child, a position she held in the 19th Knesset as well. Levy-Abekasis also chaired the Lobby for Children and Youth at Risk and the Lobby for Public Housing.
As Chair of the Committee for the Rights of the Child, Levy-Abekasis spearheaded the handling of crucial issues related to children and youth in Israel, e.g. diagnoses in school, the rights of working youth and provision of health services to pupils in regular elementary schools and in special education. She also focused on at-risk children and protection afforded to these children by authorities.
In the 18th Knesset, Levy-Abekasis wrote a law which converted the telephone call center to provide assistance for victims of sexual assault and harassment into a free and confidential emergency hotline. For her work on children’s rights, public housing, gender equality, suitable treatment of sex offenses and a series of other issues in welfare, health and education, Levy-Abekasis received the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award for 2012.
In the 19th Knesset, Levy-Abekasis chaired the Special Committee for the Rights of the Child. She also served as chair of the Lobby for Public Housing, the Lobby for Children and Youth at Risk and the Lobby for Encouraging Task-Oriented Communities and Groups. She also headed the Israel-Italy and Israel-Malta Parliamentary Friendship Groups, positions that she continued to fill in the 20th Knesset.
In the 19th Knesset, Levy-Abekasis initiated a law to rehabilitate, advance and integrate people with autism in the community. In the 20th Knesset, she pursued a new version of the law. She also worked on a draft law to improve the rights of renters.
During the 20th Knesset, MK Levy-Abekasis advanced a law on rights of tenants in public housing that defined the obligations of companies housing the tenants. In hearings on the state budget, she revealed the cancellation of grants to residents who relocate to the periphery and cancellation of the budget for the neighborhood rehabilitation project. Due to her disclosure, the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health retracted the cancellation of these budgets, and the budget for the neighborhood rehabilitation project may even increase in 2017.
For her activity as legislator, Levy-Abekasis won the Knight of Good Government award in 2015.
In May 2016, during negotiations between Yisrael Beitenu and Likud, Levy-Abekasis announced her resignation from the Yisrael Beitenu party due to the lack of inclusion of socioeconomic issues in the party’s main demands during negotiations.
As an independent MK, she remained active, continuing to work for disadvantaged populations in Israel. As chair of the Lobby for the Advancement of Fair Rental and Public Housing, she also focused on the housing crisis by introducing draft laws, such as the draft law on mortgage guarantees. Levy-Abekasis also spearheaded the commemoration of World Prematurity Day and promoted the issue of premature infants and increased support for neonatal intensive care units in hospitals across the country.
In May 2016, Levy-Abekasis announced her intention to leave Yisrael Beiteinu after she was denied a ministerial position in the 34th government, and objected to what she said was the party’s abandonment of its social platform in negotiations to join Netanyahu’s coalition. She remained in the Knesset as an independent member supporting the opposition and was ultimately ousted from Yisrael Beiteinu.
According to Knesset protocol, Levy-Abekasis was not allowed to run in the next election on an existing list; consequently, she announced plans to form a new party. In December 2018, the party was named Gesher, reviving the name of the party founded by her father.
Explaining her position, Levy-Abekasis explained, “There’s this constant divide between right and left, which is a divide that serves the interests of members of the old world order.” She said her party would focus on socioeconomic affairs including pensions, health, housing, child-rearing and strengthening small and medium businesses.
“I want to advance these issues, I want to put them front and center. I want to make them the issues that perhaps will break the status quo and create in my eyes a new order,” she told Hadashot.
She entered the 2019 election with a good reputation based on her track record of pursuing social issues of interest to a broad swath of the public.
Levy-Abekasis is married, the mother of four, and lives in Kibbutz Mesilot
Sources: “Orly Levy,” Wikipedia;
“Orly Levy-Abekasis is Israel’s newest political wildcard,” Times of Israel, (March 14, 2019);
“Orly Levi-Abekasis,” The Knesset;
Moran Azulay and Matan Tzuri, “Orly Levy-Abekasis announces new political party,” Ynet, (March 6, 2018);
Hezki Baruch, Levy-Abekasis’ party to be named Gesher,” Arutz Sheva, (December 26, 2018)