Knesset unveils new visitors’ center

"The Democracy Experience" offers tours in eight languages and for a variety of groups, from kindergarteners to IDF soldiers.

The new Knesset Visitors’ Center 311 (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
The new Knesset Visitors’ Center 311
(photo credit: Lahav Harkov)
Some see the Knesset as the symbol of Israeli democracy, but insiders know it’s not that different from the Hebrew children’s story Gan Balagan, in which preschoolers drive their teacher crazy by doing whatever they want.
At least that’s what Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told a group of five year olds on Sunday, at the dedication ceremony of the new Knesset Visitors’ Center, featuring over a dozen different themed tours in eight languages.
The tour for preschoolers, which begins with Gan Balagan and continues explaining to children the differences between the rules of their kindergarten and the laws in the Knesset, is one of many targeted at school children.
Another tour, for fourth-throughsixth graders, focuses on elections, allowing them to elect heads of parties and give speeches to their class. All of the tours for schools are also available in Arabic.
The visitors’ center, under its new name, “The Democracy Experience,” offers tours for adults in Hebrew, English, Arabic, French, Spanish, German, Russian and Amharic. In addition to general tours of the Knesset, visitors may ask to learn about topics such as art and photography, human rights, democracy and Judaism, architecture, the legislative process and archeology.
In addition, there are special tours for Birthright and Masa groups, Political Science students in Israeli universities, participants in leadership training programs and haredi groups. All IDF soldiers undergoing training to become officers will come to the Knesset for a workshop on “The Army in a Democratic State.”
Rivlin commended Knesset Visitors’ Center Director Giora Pordes’ work, saying that the new tours “have created for every young person in Israel a good reason to come to the Knesset and enjoy “The Democracy Experience,” in the home of democracy.”
“The Knesset is ‘the home of the people,’ and as such, we want everyone to find an aspect that is interesting, beautiful and important here,” Rivlin added.
The Knesset Speaker explained that the new tours will greatly contribute to the civics education of every student in Israel and help improve the Knesset’s image.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar also participated in the ceremony, saying that the tours’ importance must be understood in the greater context of teaching democracy.
According to Saar, Israeli democracy is a great achievement because the much of the population came here from non-democratic countries and because the state faces constant threats and terror, which other strong democracies could not withstand.
Sa’ar also inserted thinly-veiled criticism of a recent spate of controversial bills at the Supreme Court, saying: “It is a good thing that we have independent courts in Israel, which assist those facing the arbitrariness of government decisions.”
The education minister said that a variety of voices and opinions “is not something that needs to be repaired,” and called for not only freedom of expression, but respect for what others express.
More information about Knesset tours can be found by contacting the visitors’ center at (02) 675-3337 or [email protected]