Avraham Burg has been an author, activist and well-known thought leader in Israeli politics for over three decades. Burg was first elected to the Israeli Knesset in 1988, ultimately becoming speaker in 1999. Burg was the first speaker to invite his Palestinian counterpart as well as the Dalai Lama to the Knesset.
He is the founder and Chairman of Molad, a progressive think-tank for the renewal of Israeli democracy. Burg leveraged his political activism, becoming Chairman of Mifalot, the largest sport for peace social project in the Middle East. An agent of change, Mifalot helps over 20,000 children in Israel, Palestine and Jordan participate in soccer programs every year.
Throughout his career, Burg has used his unique voice to develop into a forward-thinking leader in the Middle East. He has consistently called for a separation of church and state. He is currently a board member of Paideia, the European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden.
Burg’s career in public service began around the time of the protest movement against the war in Lebanon (1982) with the organization, Peace Now. He served on the board of the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature and as a tour guide and lecturer at the Israeli government school of tourism.
His political career started in 1985 when Prime Minister Shimon Peres appointed him as an advisor on Diaspora Affairs. Burg later became a member of the Knesset until 1995, when he became the Executive Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. During his term as JAFI chair, he oversaw the immigration to Israel of over half a million Jews and was instrumental in the restructuring of the agency. His leadership placed a strong emphasis on the importance on Jewish education, identity and protecting vulnerable populations.
As Deputy Chairman of the World Jewish Congress, Burg was a member of the international committee, which negotiated a successful settlement with the Swiss banks. Additionally, he was a member of the Claims Conference and led the successful struggle for the restitution of Jewish property in Europe.
Burg founded the Open Midrasha Center for Jewish Studies and fought against changes to the law of return. He was the first recipient of the New Israel Fund’s Leadership Award and currently serves on the organization’s International committee.
Burg served in the paratroop brigade as an officer, wounded in a parachuting accident. During the 1980’s, he was a popular television personality having hosted shows on both Channel 1 and Educational TV. He studied African Studies at Hebrew University, Industrial Design at the Betzalel Academy and was both a student and a lecturer at the Israeli Government School of Tourism.
His books include God is Back (2006, Hebrew), The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from Its Ashes, (2008, English) and Avishag (2011, Hebrew). Burg’s latest book, Very Near to You: Human Readings of the Torah, was published in March 2012. Burg launched an online community, the Torah Tent, in support of his latest book that encourages people to debate and discuss the role of the Bible in the modern world.