top of page

What is the Knesset?


The name "Knesset" comes from the ancient Knesset HaGdola, or "Great Assembly" in Hebrew, which was a group of 120 scribes, sages, and prophets in the Jewish tradition. This assembly existed from the end of the Biblical prophets to the development of Rabbinic Judaism. This spanned two centuries until around 200 BCE.

There is no organizational connection between the ancient and the modern-day Knesset, except that they both included 120 members. Unlike the modern Knesset, the ancient Knesset was a religious body not elected by the people. Members of the Knesset are known in Hebrew as "Haver HaKnesset" if male, or "Havrat HaKnesset" if female.

Assembled for the first time on February 14, 1949, it succeeded the Assembly of Representatives (Asefat HaNivharim) during the British mandate in Palestine and replaced the Provisional State Council (Moetzet HaMedina HaZmanit, with 37 deputies).

The building is located on top of Givat Ram Hill in Jerusalem and was financed by James Armand de Rothschild, the elder son of Edmond de Rothschild.


The Knesset is Israel's legislative body, consisting of one chamber. It holds the highest authority in the state and has complete control over the entire Israeli government, except for the checks and balances provided by the courts and local governments.

The Knesset performs various essential functions, such as passing all laws, selecting the president and Prime Minister (although the president ceremonially appoints the prime minister), endorsing the cabinet, supervising the government's work, and electing the state comptroller.

Additionally, the Knesset can remove the president and state comptroller from office. It can also waive its members' immunity, dissolve the government through a constructive vote of no confidence, and dissolve itself to hold new elections. Although the prime minister can also dissolve the Knesset, the Knesset remains in charge until supplementary elections are conducted.

The Knesset has parliamentary supremacy and can pass any law with a simple majority. This is even if it potentially conflicts with the Basic Laws of Israel unless the basic law has specific conditions for modification. As part of a plan established in 1950, the Knesset can adopt and modify the Basic Laws in its role as a Constituent Assembly. The Knesset is regulated by a Basic Law called "Basic Law: the Knesset."

Although there is no formal constitution in Israel, and no Basic Law has been passed to grant the judiciary the power of judicial review, the Supreme Court of Israel has since the early 1990s asserted its authority to invalidate provisions of Knesset laws it finds inconsistent with the Basic Law.


Below are the explanations for each number.

  1. The Knesset Speaker or one of the Knesset Speaker’s deputies sits in the center of the dais while directing a plenum sitting.

    1. To the left of the Speaker sits the Knesset Secretary General.

    2. To the right of the Speaker is the podium for the person addressing the plenum.

    3. When the Knesset Sergeant-At-Arms attends a sitting, usually on festive occasions, he/she is also seated on the dais.

    4. Behind them stands the Israeli flag.

  2. The center table, which is shaped like a horseshoe, is reserved for members of the Government. At the head of the table sits the Prime Minister, with ministers on both sides.

  3. Each Knesset member has a permanent seat. At each Knesset Member’s table, there is a copy of the Knesset Rules of Procedure. There is also the agenda of the sitting, background materials relevant to that day's discussions, and a touch screen used for electronic voting. The results are displayed on two large screens on both sides of the Plenum Hall.

  4. On the left side of the wall hangs a portrait of Theodor Herzl etched on a dark zinc tablet.

Interesting fact: The seats are arranged like a menorah (7-branched candelabra).



bottom of page