This year, the Knesset is marking the 50th anniversary of the Knesset Building in Jerusalem in various different ways.
Over the years, the Knesset, the seat of Israeli democracy, has promoted the core values of democracy and freedom of expression. Even when debates in the Knesset become heated and bitter, issues are resolved by majority decisions which are respected by all. Freedom of expression is a fundamental principle of the Knesset and this body consciously provides a platform where all members can express their opinions fully and equally.
In 1956 the Knesset Presidium, in collaboration with the Association of Architects in Israel, announced a public competition for architects to design a permanent residence for the Knesset in the Givat Ram government compound in Jerusalem. The first prize was unanimously awarded to architect Joseph Klarwein. Construction of the Knesset Building was funded by the Rothschild family and lasted nine years.
The Knesset Building was inaugurated on August 30, 1966. The building hugs the slope of Givat Ram in western Jerusalem and overlooks a broad valley in which the capital of Israel's past meets its present - with the ancient Monastery of the Cross at one end and the Israel Museum and Hebrew University of Jerusalem campus at the other.
The Knesset Building sits on approximately 360 acres of land. Six of its floors face southward and the three floors at the top of the hill face northward. The large courtyard in front of the building is used to celebrate national events. Access to some sections of the building is limited only to members of the Knesset - the Plenum Hall, hexagonal committee rooms, reading rooms, a separate dining room for MK's and even rooms for resting. Other areas are open to the public — the audience gallery, a dining room and the Main Hall, decorated with works by artist Marc Chagall.
Construction of the new modern committee wing of the Knesset Building was completed just a decade ago.
The building holds many famous works of art: the stone wall behind the dais in the Plenum Hall, which represents "Jerusalem between Heaven and Earth" was sculpted by Dani Karavan; the Knesset gates and eternal flame commemorating the fallen in Israel's wars are by Jerusalem artist David Palombo; the wall tapestries depicting the history of the Jewish People were created by Chagall.
The Knesset has been part of every historic moment in the history of the State of Israel: Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's speech in 1977, the throngs of citizens who passed before the casket of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, speeches by American presidents and other world leaders, and many other significant moments in which Israelis came together to watch the events taking place at the Knesset Building.