The Knesset first convened on 14 February 1949, following the 20 January elections, replacing the Provisional State Council which acted as Israel's official legislature from its date of independence on 14 May 1948 and succeeding the Assembly of Representatives that had functioned as the Jewish community's representative body during the Mandate era.
The Knesset compound sits on a hilltop in western Jerusalem in a district known as Sheikh Badr before the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, now Givat Ram. The main building was financed by James de Rothschild as a gift to the State of Israel in his will and was completed in 1966. It was built on land leased from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Over the years, significant additions to the structure were constructed, however, these were built at levels below and behind the main 1966 structure as not to detract from the original assembly building's appearance.
Before the construction of its permanent home, the Knesset met in the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem, the Kessem Cinema building in Tel Aviv and the Froumine building in Jerusalem.
Location and construction timeline
- 14 February 1949: First meeting of the Constituent Assembly, Jewish Agency, Jerusalem
- 8 March 1949 – 14 December 1949: Kessem Cinema in Tel Aviv (the Opera Tower, Migdal HaOpera, is situated there today)
- 26 December 1949 – 8 March 1950: Jewish Agency, Jerusalem
- 13 March 1950: Froumine Building, King George Street, Jerusalem.
- 1950–1955: Israeli government holds architectural competitions for the permanent Knesset building. Ossip Klarwein's original design won the competition
- 1955: Government approves plans to build the Knesset in its current location
- 1957: James de Rothschild informs Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion of his desire to finance the construction of the building
- 14 October 1958: Cornerstone-laying for new Knesset building
- 31 August 1966: Dedication of new building (during the sixth Knesset)
- 1981: Construction of new wing begins
- 1992: New wing opens
- 2001: Construction starts on a large new wing that essentially doubles the overall floorspace of the Knesset compound.
- 2007: New large wing opens
Each Knesset session is known by its election number. Thus the Knesset elected by Israel's first election in 1949 is known as the First Knesset. The current Knesset, elected in 2019, is the Twenty-first Knesset.