Both the name of Israel's one-chamber parliament and its number of seats (120) were taken from Haknesset Hagedolah, the Great Assembly of the Second Temple period, some 2,000 years ago. The free hour-long public tour, offered Sunday and Thursday, includes the session hall and three enormous, brilliantly colored tapestries designed by Marc Chagall on the subjects of the Creation, the Exodus, and Jerusalem. Arrive at least 30 minutes before the tour (especially in summer, when the lines are longer), and be sure to bring your passport. Bags and cameras have to be deposited with security. On other days, when in session, Knesset proceedings (conducted in Hebrew) are open to the public—call ahead to verify.

Across the road from the Knesset main gate is a 14-foot-high, 4-ton bronze menorah, based on the one that once stood within the sanctuary of the ancient temple in Jerusalem. The seven-branch candelabrum was adopted soon after independence as the official symbol of the modern State of Israel. This one, designed by sculptor Benno Elkan, and given as a gift by British parliamentarians to the Knesset in 1956, is decorated with bas-relief depictions of events and personages in Jewish history, from biblical times to the modern day. Behind the menorah is the Wohl Rose Garden, which has hundreds of varieties of roses, many lawns for children to romp on, and adult-friendly nooks in its upper section (entry from outside the Knesset complex).


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