January 1st 2015
Less than a year after Israel became a state in 1948, the Knesset, Israel’s parliamentary house, convened for the first time as an official arm of the Israeli government, replacing two previous bodies that acted as legislative arms of the Zionist leadership in Israel. The term Knesset comes from the Hebrew word meaning assembly. The ancient Knesset was a body of 120 religious scholars who operated in ancient Israel. The modern Knesset also has 120 elected members, called MKs or Members of Knesset.
The Knesset’s permanent home is in the western Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Ram – near the Israeli Supreme Court, the Jewish National Library, the Israel Museum and other government offices. For close to two decades prior to the current Knesset building’s completion in 1966, the Knesset met in several alternate locations in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv.
Highlights of a visit to the Knesset include viewing Israel’s original Declaration of Independence, the Knesset Committee Rooms, the Plenary Chamber where the full Knesset meets and the Chagall Hall, designed by artist Marc Chagall and the location of official state receptions. Of special interest are the 12 floor mosaics and the three large, colorful tapestries in the Chagall Hall. The tapestries were designed to represent the story of the Jewish people, and their symbols range from biblical images to the Holocaust.
General guided tours of the Knesset are held each weekday from Sunday to Thursday. Representing the primary languages of Israel’s citizens, tours are available in English, Hebrew, Arabic, French, Spanish, German, Russian and Amharic. The guided tours last for approximately one hour. Specialized tours focusing on the art and photography in the Knesset building, the architecture of the Knesset and the parliamentary work of the Knesset are also available. Visitors must bring their passports to join an organized tour. Select Knesset sessions are open to the public.
The Knesset Archaeology Park is open to all visitors without a guide. Artifacts from previous archeological digs in Jerusalem, labeled with information about their backgrounds and history, include articles from the Second Temple Period, the Late Roman Period, the Byzantine Period, the Islamic Period, the Crusader Period and the Period of the Ottoman Empire.