The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, marked its 73rd anniversary on Monday.
The Jerusalem-based legislature held its first sitting on Feb. 14, 1949 – which according to the Jewish calendar is the 15th of Shvat (Tu Bishvat), a holiday known as the “New Year of the Trees.” This day marks the season in which the earliest trees in bloom throughout the land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.
The ritual of planting trees in Jerusalem and its surroundings has since become an integral part of the Knesset's birthday celebrations.
This year, however, given the surge of the Omicron variant sweeping through the country, the celebrations were scaled back. The original plan included a flyover by four Israeli Air Force fighter jets, a massive graffiti exhibition, reenactments of Knesset discussions and cooking contests between Israeli parliamentarians hosted by famous local chefs.
COVID restrictions led to the cancellation of those events, and many activities to mark the occasion were moved to the virtual space.
The day kicked off with virtual tours of the Knesset building in Jerusalem for students of all ages. The Israeli Government Press Office held a media panel hosted by Knesset Member Ibtisam Mara’ana-Menuhin of the Labor party.
Under the titles "Common Good" and "Diverse Opinions – One Knesset,” a special series of discussions brought together Israeli lawmakers from both sides of the aisle for a unique one-on-one dialogue.
One of the highlights of the day was a unique art exhibit in the historical building, depicting famous quotes from Israel's founders. The exhibit was made in cooperation with several museums from across the country and was aimed at creating an atmosphere of unity as Israeli lawmakers entered the plenary debates.
The speaker of the Knesset, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, alternate-Prime Minister Yair Lapid and opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu delivered speeches throughout the day. President Isaac Herzog, who was also set to give a speech, did not attend due to the death of his mother Aura Herzog last week.
The celebrations concluded with a series of virtual roundtables between Knesset members and leaders of Jewish communities in the Diaspora, held in collaboration with the Jewish Agency.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.