Some 2,000 students, soldiers and elderly people visited the Knesset on Monday as the Israeli parliament celebrated its 70th anniversary.
The Knesset first convened on Tu Bishvat, 1949 (the holiday fell on February 14th, 1949), and has since celebrated its birthday on this holiday, which is also called “New Year of the Trees.”
The day began with visitors planting in the Knesset Plaza blue and white flowers which created the number 70. During the traditional Tu Bishvat planting ceremony, which was held in conjunction with the Jewish National Fund, Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein (Likud) said “I pray that along with the splendid growth of the seedlings we’ve planted, the legislative work of the Knesset will also bear sweet fruit.”
Later, together with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, Speaker Edelstein affixed on the entry door to the parliament building a mezuzah which was lost in August 1966 during the Knesset’s relocation from Beit Frumin (Frumin House) to its current abode in the Givat Ram neighborhood, and was recently returned to the Knesset. Speaker Edelstein and Rabbi Lau then participated in a festive “mincha” prayer service at the Knesset Synagogue.
In honor of the Knesset’s birthday on Tu Bishvat, the building’s corridors were adorned with floral arrangements and fruit stands courtesy of the Ministry of Agriculture. Throughout the day, bands played in different areas of the parliament building, and visitors took part in tours and creative workshops in the spirit of Tu Bishvat, heard fascinating lectures about the Knesset, planted strawberry plants and visited a “dark room” in which they were asked to identify Israeli leaders without the use of imagery. In addition, visitors also enjoyed a performance the Knesset’s canine unit.