The Knesset Building in Giv’at Ram - Planning and Construction
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The Knesset Building: Additions
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Photo Gallery
The Architect, Richard Kaufmann


Already in the early days of modern Zionism, it was clear to those who envisioned the establishment of a Jewish State, and those who acted to realize the vision, that once it was established, it would be a democracy, in which a parliament would be built. In his book Altneuland (written in 1902), Theodor Herzl, described the parliament of the Jewish state in Jerusalem in the following words: “[A] great crowd was massed before (the Congress House). The election was to take place in the lofty council chamber built of solid marble and lighted from above through matte glass. The auditorium seats were still empty, because the delegates were still in the lobbies and committee rooms, engaged in exceedingly hot discussion…" 1

In his book Yerushalayim Habnuya (written in 1918), Boris Schatz, who had established the Bezalel school of arts and crafts, placed the parliament of the Jewish State on Mount Olives: "Mount Olives ceased to be a mountain of the dead… it is now the mountain of life…the round building close to [the Hall of Peace] is our parliament, in which the Sanhedrin sits".2 When in the 1920s the German born architect, Richard Kaufmann, presented to the British authorities his plan for the Talpiot neighborhood, that was designed to be a Jerusalem garden neighborhood, it included an unidentified building of large dimensions. When he was asked about the meaning of the building he relied in German: "this is our parliament building". Upon the advice of the British, who considered this a megalomanic fantasy, he changed the identity of the building to an art gallery.3 How Kaufmann envisioned his parliament - we shall never know. Herzl was inaccurate in his description of the building, and Schatz and Kaufmann were both wrong in their location of the building. Nevertheless, as visionaries, all three deserve to be mentioned at the opening of an article dealing with the planning and construction of the Knesset building in Jerusalem.4

One of the paintings of Theodor Herzl
in the Knesset: An oil painting by
Baron Joseph Arpad Koppay von Dretoma, 1899
  Boris Schatz, self-portrait. The Schatz Fund.

1 Theodor Herzl, Old-New Land, translated by Paula Arnold, Haifa, Haifa Publishing Company Ltd., 1960, pp. 206-7.
2 Boris Schatz, Yerushalam Habnuya - Halom Behakitz (Built Jerusalem - A Daytime Dream), Jerusalem, 1924, p. 10 (Hebrew).
3 Tom Segev, Yemei Hakalaniyot (Days of the Anemones), Jerusalem, Keter, 1999, footnote on p. 167 (Hebrew).
4 My sincere thanks to the architect, and chronologist of the architectural history of Jerusalem, David Kroyanker, who drew my attention to the quotes by Herzl and Schatz.


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