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Knesset open house…playhouse

Children build a model of the Knesset at the Israel Parliament's open house, Jan. 19, 2016JERUSALEM — Thousands attended the first ever “open house” event in the Knesset building in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

The Israeli legislature opened its doors to the general public to mark 67 years since the founding of the Israeli parliament and 50 years since the construction of the Knesset building on Givat Ram.

The event also celebrated the Jewish holiday of Tu b’Shevat with ecology and environment-oriented activities, such as a cycling-produced electricity station.

This was an “extraordinary and unique event both in terms of scope and the level of personal involvement and participation by the legislators themselves,” said Knesset Spokesperson Yotam Yakir.

Approximately 80 out of the 120 Members of Knesset participated and met the general public in informal forums and activities.

MKs attended and hosted their own workshops, activities, musical performances and discussions, often giving the visitors a glimpse into their personal hobbies, interests and skills.

Visitors had the opportunity to meet, converse and even play with Israel’s legislators in the informal environment.

One such workshop was hosted by Hamad Amar of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. Amar, who holds a black belt in karate, gave a karate lesson and even held a friendly exhibition bout with Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), who holds a blue belt.

Other MKs showcased their musical talents with live performances in the Knesset’s Chagall Lounge. Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) gave a piano recital, while Yifat Shasha-Biton (Kulanu) impressed audiences with her singing voice, performing renditions of classic Israeli hits.

“As far as I am aware, there is no precedent in the world for a national legislative body opening its doors to the public to such an extent and having the members of parliament entertain the visitors in such an informal and direct manner,” spokesman Yakir said.

Some MKs entertained the young ones with storytelling.

Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and Orly Levy-Abekasis (Yisrael Beiteinu) read from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Children also enjoyed taking part in building a large-scale model of the Knesset building from Lego bricks throughout the day.

“This was a celebration of personal meeting and unfiltered interaction of the Knesset with thousands of citizens from all over the country. The meeting emphasized the Knesset’s place in the Israeli public sphere since its very establishment,” said Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

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