The Knesset (HaKnesset, which means “the gathering” or “the assembly”) is Israel’s unicameral parliament and supreme authority. Being Israel’s main legislative body, it enacts laws, elects the President and Prime Minister, supervises government activities, and a lot more.
The Knesset is divided into multiple committees that oversee every segment of government, such as defense, finance, and labor. Knesset has 120 Members of the Knesset (MKs), each of whom is elected to four-year terms.
The Knesset was first convened in Tel Aviv on February 14, 1949, after the January 20 elections.
The Knesset building – can it be visited?
The Knesset compound is located on top of a hill in the quiet neighborhood of Givat Ram, Jerusalem, where a number of Israel’s other important institutions are also located, such as the Israel Museum, the Bank of Israel, and the Supreme Court.
The building was first constructed in 1966. Several extensions have been added through the decades, although the original building still stands.
So, the question is: are people allowed to visit it? The answer is – yes!
Visits to the Knesset – schedules and guidelines for visitors
Individuals and groups wishing to visit the Knesset can do so through the context of tours.
The Knesset has a set schedule of guided tours, which are conducted mostly in the morning and early afternoon, on Sunday and Thursday. Below are the tour’s schedules, so make sure to sign up for your preferred language:
- Hebrew – 10:00, 11:00, 13:00
- English – 08:30, 12:00, 14:00
- Arabic – 13:30
- French – 13:00
- Russian – 11:00
- Spanish – 10:00
- German – 08:30
Individuals and smaller groups may participate in standard tours, which take place on Sundays and Thursdays and do not require reservations.
Touring groups consisting of 10 people or more are held on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. For such tours, it is strongly recommended to make reservations in advance. They may have to coordinate their visits with the Knesset’s Visitor Center through these contact details:
- Telephone: (972) 02-6753337
- Fax: (972) 02-649659
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reminders for arranging tours of the Knesset:
- All fax or email requests should include contact phone numbers.
- All visit reservations require a final written confirmation from the Knesset Visitors Center.
- The Knesset reserves the right to change the tour schedules according to events at the Knesset.
All tours are free of charge. The maximum number of guests in a single tour is 50 persons.
“Can I attend the Knesset debates?”
Yes, you can! You may be taken aback or even alarmed by the shouting matches among MKs, but they are pretty usual in Knesset debates. You’ll witness Israel’s democracy in action right before your own eyes.
Visitors may view and observe Knesset debates from the Public Gallery. Plenary sittings start at the following schedules:
- Mondays: 16:00
- Tuesdays: 16:00
- Wednesdays: 11:00
No matter what type of visit – making regular tours or attending debates – guests should note in advance that security measures are very strict. All visitors are required to present a valid passport or Israeli ID card. Else, they will not be granted access. They should also wear modest clothing.
Visitors going to the Knesset should take the Egged bus lines 7, 7A, 14, 35, or 66.
If going by own vehicle, free parking is available at HaLeom car park located on Yitzhak Rabin Road 10, just across the Supreme Court building.
There is also a special shuttle service that leaves the Knesset every 15 minutes.
You should bring your parking ticket with you and have it stamped by an usher at the building entrance at the end of your tour so that you won’t be charged for parking.
What to see in the Knesset?
A standard tour includes visits to the Knesset Committee Wing, Plenary Hall, Marc Chagall Hall (above picture), and the exhibit featuring the original copy of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The tour lasts about one hour.
The tour also introduces visitors to every facet of the Knesset’s parliamentary roles and responsibilities, emphasizing the parliamentary work affects the daily lives of the country’s citizens. It focuses on the election process and duties of the MKs and Knesset committees.
Visitors can also check out unique artistic and photographic works on display. Perhaps the most famous of them all are tapestries by the renowned expressionist artist Marc Chagall in the Chagall State Hall. The Government Floor displays the artworks of Moshe Castel and Reuben Rubin, as well as an exhibit of photographs by former Knesset official photographer David Rubinger.
The Knesset also has the Archaeological Garden (Archaeological Park), where visitors can conduct a self-guided tour.
Visitors can also check out the giant bronze menorah (above picture) just opposite the Knesset building. It was created by the Jewish sculptor Benno Elkan who escaped from his native Germany in 1933 after the rise of the Nazis and settled in Great Britain.
There’s also a special tour called the “Green Knesset”, which is educational in nature and highlights the Knesset’s environmental efforts.
Check out the other things to see in the New City of Jerusalem.