The Knesset (yes, you need to pronounce the K) is the legislative branch of the Israeli government and plays a vital role in the country’s operation, from passing laws and electing the President and PM, to supervising the work of government.
Whilst the building that houses the government may not find itself naturally at the top of a visitor’s list of must-see sights, the Knesset building which is located in Givat Ram, Jerusalem, is a great place to check out if you’re interested in what makes Israel tick. For more about what the Knesset officially gets up to, see the official site.
As you’re probably not interested in visiting as part of a Knesset committee or parliamentary motion, you’ll be pleased to know that the Knesset building is much more than the stereotypical set of drab, grey government buildings due to the surprising collection of fascinating tours on offer. Cutting across a diverse set of interests, the Knesset and its tours (all of which are FREE) offer much more than visitors might at first assume.
Here are a few of the tours we think might interest you (note that all tours are available from Sunday to Thursday from 08:30 to 14:00):
- The General Tour is the best introduction to all that the Knesset offers. It is great way to learn about democracy and understand the role that the Knesset plays in a fairly easy and digestible format. But it is not just government business on the agenda. The tour is also a wonderful opportunity to see the highlights of the impressive Knesset building. The tour takes in the Knesset Committee Rooms, the Plenary Chamber, the Chagall Hall and Declaration of Independence.
- The Democracy in Practice Tour is ideal for anyone with a slant towards the work of this powerhouse and the parliamentary work carried out there, whilst the Law – from Legislation to Enforcement Tour is a fascinating trip for those visitors more interested in the legal side of life, with a tour of the Knesset and the Supreme Court.
- The most enticing tour for visitors with a creative interest is the Art and Photography Tour where visitors are taken around the many paintings, photographs, sculptures and archaeological findings housed at the Knesset. This tour includes the exhibitions of the resident photographer, David Rubinger, as well as the works of Moshe Castel and Re’uven Rubin. Visitors will also get the chance to see the Second Temple Period Catacombs and Byzantine Mosaics as well as three wonderful Menorah’s – the Seven Species Menorah, the Eternal Flame Menorah and the Benno Elkan Menorah.
- Visitors with an interest in the Knesset’s structure will relish the Architecture Tour which provides an overview of the attributes of the Knesset including each of its wings which were structured to emphasize the values of democracy.
All visits to the Knesset include access to the Archaeology Park (but access does not include a guide) where visitors can see many of the articles that have been found during digs in Jerusalem spanning a wide range of historic periods including The Second Temple Period and Byzantine Period amongst others.
The tours are available in Hebrew, English, French, Spanish, Arabic, German, Amharic and Russian each Sunday and Thursday. For a chance to see a live session in the Knesset, visit on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday mornings.
The General Tour lasts about one hour whilst the other tours last up to three hours. The tours are free of charge but don’t forget to bring your passport or Israeli ID card for entry. Also make sure you arrive at least half an hour before the tour is due to commence to ensure the entry process can be completed in time.
For more details, contact the Visitors Center on 02-6753337 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to get to the Knesset
There are a number of Egged bus lines that go to the Knesset, including lines 9, 24 and 24a.
There is also free parking (as long as you bring your parking ticket to have it stamped by the guys at the entrance to the Knesset) at the HaLe’om Car Park opposite the Supreme Court building. If it’s a too hot or too cold, catch the shuttle that runs from the car park to the Knesset every 15 minutes.