Shirley Pinto made history on Wednesday when she was sworn in as the first deaf Member of Knesset (MK) in Israel’s history, replacing Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana who resigned under the Norwegian Law.
Pinto, of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, was one of 13 new members of the coalition who pledged their allegiance to the State of Israel on Wednesday in the Knesset. She did so in sign language.
Pinto has dedicated her life to helping deaf people and others with disabilities by co-founding the Israeli Center for Deaf Studies, lecturing deaf students at Bar-Ilan University’s Sign Language Interpreting program, volunteering as Ramat Gan Municipality’s adviser on disability affairs, and serving as Yamina’s representative in the World Zionist Congress.
Pinto, a native of a traditional home in Kiryat Bialik, graduated from the Netanya Academic College with a Bachelor’s degree in law and served in the Air Force Technical Directorate as a project manager in the Logistics Equipment Division.
She was awarded a medal of excellence from the Commander of the Air Force, Maj. Gen. (res.) Ido Nehustan and the President’s Excellence Award from Shimon Peres in 2009.
Pinto has previously vowed to make Israel an “accessible, egalitarian and inclusive” society and act on behalf of all Israelis with disabilities.
To accommodate Pinto’s parliamentary work, she will have a special personalized translator during Knesset sessions that will translate proceedings into sign language and that will speak in her voice using a “Madonna” style microphone. Her seat in the Knesset will allow her to be up-close to her translator so she can respond to comments, ask questions and speak from the podium at a moment’s notice. Her room will flash with a special light whenever the bell rings and before she is required to vote.
Bennett spoke at the Knesset ceremony on Wednesday and said Pinto becoming the first deaf MK in Israel’s parliament is one of the most exciting moments for him personally.
“Shirley Pinto, the first deaf MK in Israel, has proven by her actions that everything is possible,” Bennett said.