Friday, January 7, 2011

A Visit to the Knesset

The Knesset (pronounced K-ness-et) is Israel's legislative branch of government located right here in Jerusalem. Visiting the Knesset is much like visiting the Congress buildings in the U.S. or the White House. It is an exciting tour free of charge which everyone should try to do if they have the time while in Israel. It is a historic site with many eventful happenings throughout its history, including various peace talks by Middle Eastern leaders, visits from ambassadors and world leaders, assassination memorials, protests and important votes and decisions in Israel's 62-year history.

View of the Knesset Building from the famous Menorah
View of the Knesset Building
That's me at the Knesset's famous menorah
The functions of the Knesset are to enact laws, elect the president and prime minister and to supervise the work of the government. The Knesset also has the power to remove the current president of the state and the state controller from office. Additionally, they can choose to dissolve themselves and call new elections. The Knesset is made up of 120 members who are elected to 4-year terms. All votes must be approved by a majority vote. This means that if only five members of the 120 members show up for a vote or election, then even in this case, majority rules. There is no minimum number of members required to be present in order to make a vote go forward. Lastly, I found it interesting that the president has no political power at all here in Israel, rather the voting power comes from the 120 members themselves, including the prime minister.  Past presidents in Israel have included people who are doctors, teachers and artists, just to name a few. It is the prime minister who assumes the true role of head of state. This is where all the magic happens:

An active Knesset meeting with the majority of its members present

An empty Knesset facing the visitor's sound/bullet proof glass window

The wall represents the old Jerusalem and the new (geometric 'views' from air)
The sound-proof and bullet-proof glass windows inside the Knesset were installed many years ago after a hand grenade was tossed inside an active Knesset, injuring several key members inside. Today, the Knesset is much safer and secure than in its original days. Also inside the Knesset are a plethora of tapestries and mosaics from famed artist, Marc Chagall. His artwork is synonymous with Jewish identity and culture and can be found throughout many key places in Israel. Here is a look at his artwork inside the walls of the Knesset:

Chagall's three tapestries represent the past, the present and the future
Another view of Chagall's tapestries from the other side
In this picture you can see one of many of his floor mosaics
A close-up of Chagall's wall mosaic
A close up of the tapestry depicting Israel's past
A closeup of the tapestry depicting Israel's future, i.e. peace and harmony
There is live streaming on channel 99 here in Israel so that you can watch everything going on at the Knesset at any time. The people of Israel are encouraged to watch history literally in the making. Not far from the Knesset is the beautiful park, Gan Sacher, where Jessica and I had a chance to stop and picnic before our tour to the historic Knesset building. It is sort of the "Central Park" of Jerusalem if you will:

A beautiful view of an empty Gan Sacher Park in Jerusalem
A busy weekend day in the park attracts many sun bathers, dog walkers, etc.
A picnic in the park is a usual sight to see at Gan Sacher
A busy day at Gan Sacher being enjoyed by locals
Aerial view of Gan Sacher and the Knesset
No visit to Jerusalem is complete without a visit to the Knesset. Many famous political have passed through its doors and there are many excited stories to here about its history. To end this visit to the Knesset, I would like to show you the beautiful views surrounding the Knesset building. It is located a beautiful part of town, packed with political buildings including the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Transportation just to name a few. 

View to the north of the Supreme Court and Wohl Rose Garden
View to the east of the neighborhoods Rehavia and Nachlaot
View to the west of the Shrine of the Book and the Judean mountains
A view to the south of the Monastery of the Cross and surrounding olive trees


  1. Awesome article, You convinced me to go and visit Knesset, I just moved here and didn't even know that I have this opportunity! thanks!

  2. You can also visit the Supreme Court for free! It's definitely a necessity as well. I'm so glad you found the article useful :) And, welcome to Israel!!


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