Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, offers various free tours. This guide starts with basic info and then joins the standard tour.
Table of Contents
The Knesset is located on Givat Ram, Jerusalem.
Interactive map of the area:
- Hotels, hostels, and apartments in this area:
If you are arriving by public transport, you can take Egged bus lines 7, 7A, 14, 35, or 66 to the Knesset. And here is a preset link to Moovit where you can update your starting point and get updated directions.
Alternatively, if you reach the Knesset by car, you can park at the HaLeom parking garage (10 Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard). There is a free shuttle bus between the Knesset and HaLeom parking. And to park for free, bring your parking ticket and stamp it at the Knesset after your tour. If you do not stamp it, you will have to pay for parking according to its price list.
While at the shuttle bus station, I photographed the shuttle timetable since I did not see it online.
As you can see from the photos, there is a shuttle bus every 10 minutes in the morning and the afternoon and every 20 minutes from 9:30 to 14:30.
Before we get to the tour, here is some background info.
Knesset – The Parliament of Israel
The Knesset (literary “the gathering” or “assembly”) is the unicameral national legislature of Israel. As the legislative branch of the Israeli government, the Knesset passes all laws, elects the President and Prime Minister, approves the cabinet, and supervises the work of the government. Also, the Knesset elects the State Comptroller. It also has the power to waive the immunity of its members, remove the President and the State Comptroller from office, dissolve the government in a constructive vote of no confidence, and to dissolve itself and call new elections. The Prime Minister may also dissolve the Knesset. However, until an election is completed, the Knesset maintains authority in its current composition.
Knesset Visitor Center
The Knesset Visitor Center, which runs the activities for visiting members of the general public, offers tours and activities for visitors on a variety of subjects and invites visitors to experience democracy in action.
Visits to the Knesset are possible only in the framework of tours, which are offered free of charge. Individuals and small groups may join general tours, which take place on Sundays and Thursdays and do not require reservations. Groups of ten or more must reserve a tour in advance through the Visitor Center Reservations Department. A passport or Israeli ID card must be presented to enter the Knesset.
The tours and activities are accessible to visitors with special needs to ensure that all visitors can make the most of their visit to Israel’s parliament.
Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official site.
And here are the contact details of the visitor center: Tours@knesset.gov.il, 02-6753337.
Visitors should note that in accordance with the Knesset dress code, entrance to the Knesset is permitted only in dignified and appropriate attire (no tank/spaghetti tops, crop tops, clothing with political slogans, shorts or ¾–length trousers, ripped trousers, short skirts, and dresses, tracksuits or sweatpants, flip-flops, or clogs).
These rules apply to all visitors, ages 14 and up. Guests under age 18 on official Visitor Center tours may wear tracksuits or sweatpants.
Currently, there are twenty different types of tours at the Knesset. There are the standard sour, the Knesset’s roles and responsibilities, unique works of art in the Knesset building, and many others. The tours are in various languages, and you can find additional details, including the timetable, at the official site.
And now, I will tell you about the standard Knesset tour we joined recently.
Standard Knesset Tour
This tour introduces visitors to the nature of Israeli democracy, to the Knesset’s roles and responsibilities, and the works of art displayed throughout the building. The tour visits the Knesset Committees Wing, the Plenary Hall, Chagall Hall, and the exhibit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
The tour lasts approximately about one hour.
On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, tours are only held for groups. Tours for individuals and groups are held on Sundays and Thursdays between 8:30 and 14:00, according to the schedule below. The maximum number of participants in a single tour is 50; groups of ten or more people must reserve a tour in advance through the Visitor Center Reservations Department.
Tours for individuals are held on Sundays and Thursdays according to the following schedule:
Hebrew: 10:00; 11:00; 13:00
English: 8:30; 12:00; 14:00
Amharic: By prior arrangement
We arrived at the HaLeom parking garage and took the free shuttle to the Knesset. And then joined the 11:00 Hebrew tour on a Thursday.
Since we arrived a bit early (and I would suggest being there at least twenty minutes before the tour starts as there is a security check and some walking involved), we had some time to explore. And in front of the Knesset, you can find the Knesset Menorah.
The seven-branch Menorah was created by Benno Elkan (1877-1960), a Jewish sculptor from Europe.
On the Menorah, you can see 29 events, figures, and concepts from the Old Testament and the history of the Jewish people. There are Kings, Prophets of Israel, and a rebellion in Ghetto Warsaw.
Lord Edwin Samuel began the creation of the Menorah and commissioned this work from Benno Elkan. And donors paid for the production and shipping to Israel.
At first, the Menorah stood in a public garden close to Beit Frumin, where the Knesset resided between 1950 and 1966. And in 1966, the Menorah and the Knesset were moved to their current location.
After security checks, we received visitor tags and headed inside.
Ron Meron is the landscape architect who designed the courtyard landscape to form two blooming trees. The flowers blossom in season, and the trunk and branches are permanent. These elements symbolize the rich diversity of the Knesset activity and the firm foundation of the legislative process.
Inside we met our guide, and the tour started.
Israeli Declaration of Independence
Our first stop was the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
The Israeli Declaration of Independence, formally the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, was proclaimed on 14 May 1948 (5 Iyar 5708) by David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. It declared the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel, which would come into effect on termination of the British Mandate at midnight that day. The event is celebrated annually in Israel with a national holiday Independence Day on 5 Iyar of every year according to the Hebrew calendar.
Our guide told us many exciting things. For example, did you know that David Ben-Gurion presented the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel from his notes? He did not read this document as it did not exist yet. It was Friday afternoon, and they wanted to make an announcement as soon as possible. And this document was written when Shabbat ended.
As you probably know, the Knesset has 120 members, after the size of the Great Assembly. And at the lower level, there are 120 places for members from all parties and additional seats for their assistants.
We visited the second floor. It is where the president and other VIPs reside. And there is a third level, which is open to the general public. There is a bulletproof window between the Knesset Chamber and the third level (the bulletproof window was installed after a shooting incident).
Knesset gathering takes place three days a week, and these are not the days of the tours. So we did not see anybody.
If you take a closer look, you will notice that the tables and the 120 places form a Menorah. And in the first row opposite the stage, there are five chairs. The Prime Minister sits on the middle chair.
One of the main principles of the Israeli Knesset is transparency. Therefore in 2004, the Knesset Channel was created, and you can see cameras across the space recording everything.
Our next stop was three enormous tapestries by Marc Chagall. These tapestries represent the Past, Future, and Current times. Can you tell which is what?
Besides these tapestries, there are mosaics by Marc Chagall.
In the following photo, you can see our guide, who reminded us of the transparency principle. Several TV stations spread inside the Knesset, each showing which Knesset members are currently in the compound. Since it was not a gathering day, only a handful of members were present.
Our last stop was at one of the Committee Rooms. And there, we received explanations about how committees work.
The Committee Room was our last stop. We continued to one of the lobbies. We stamped our parking ticket from the HaLeom parking garage as the tour ended. Hence, we did not have to pay for the parking.
The standard Knesset tour lasted about an hour. And I enjoyed it. I learned many new and exciting things. But, my daughter, who is in the first grade, did not like it too much. As it turns out, the standard tour is less suitable for kids. And I would recommend it to teenagers and adults.
Have you ever joined one of the Knesset Tours? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.