Israel Dedicates New Knesset Building; Entire Country Rejoices
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Israel Dedicates New Knesset Building; Entire Country Rejoices

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Premier Levi Eshkol, speaking at the formal in auguration today of Israel’s new Parliament building, said that, within the walls of the new structure “will be formed the unity of a people returning to their ancestral home.”

Bonfires blazed throughout Israel at dusk to mark the handsome structure’s dedication which took place in the presence of Speakers of 44 foreign Parliaments and hundreds of overseas dignitaries. The latter included 47 representatives of Jewish communities overseas. Former Knesset Speaker Nahum Nir lighted a huge beacon in front of the massive, $6,666,000 red stone building to launch the ceremony.

As choirs broke into the song, “Miracle in Zion, ” the bonfires could be seen appearing on one hill after another in the Jerusalem night. Beacons were kindled as far south as Eilat, Israel’s southernmost port city, and as far north as Metullah, as the nation celebrated the inauguration of the new building as a symbol of Israel’s independence and democracy.

Immediately afterwards. Baroness de Rothschild, widow of the donor of the major part of the cost of the structure, cut a blue and white ribbon stretched across the huge iron gates. The two Chief Rabbis, Isser Yehuda Unterman and Yitzhak Nissim, blessed the building and affixed mezzuzot, one on each side of the huge entry.

Knesset guards in parade uniform were massed on both sides of the podium as the 44 Speakers and 47 Jewish representatives from abroad took seats of honor. Flags of the participating countries at the ceremony fluttered at the podium. (None of the East European Parliaments accepted the invitation by Speaker Kaddish Luz.)


The Speakers and Jewish leaders were followed by representatives of the world’s oldest Parliament, the Althing of Iceland, including its president, Bigir Finnson. Then came Jerusalem’s Mayor Teddy Kollek, Premier Eshkol, and then President Zalman Shazar, as an honor guard presented arms.

Premier Eshkol, in his address, stressed the hardships Israel had endured, including threats and attacks from its hostile Arab neighbors, the mass immigration and the problems of integration. He said that the Jewish people had at long last found liberty in Israel, and also a common Torah, culture and traditions.

Dr. Nahum Goldmann, speaking as president of the World Zionist Organization, welcomed the inauguration “in the name of Jewish organizations and Jewish communities throughout the world, and the Zionist organization,” He said they were all associated with the new building “and all feel joy.” He stressed that the building was “a symbol of solidarity of the Jewish people throughout the world, whether represented here or not.” This was understood to be a reference to the East European Jewries, the only major Jewish group not represented at the ceremonies, Dr. Goldmann said he hoped “the day is not far away when this large group of Jews will be able to forge links with the Jewish people and with Israel.”

The President of the Icelandic Parliament said he brought greetings “to one of the newest of the world’s democracies” and added the hope that “this building of democracy will spread not only to the Middle East but also over the entire world.”

Speaker Luz reviewed the history of the Zionist movement, the founding of the first Jewish colony at Petach Tikvah, the first Zionist Congress, and the creation of Israel. He mentioned the name of former Premier David Ben-Gurion as the man who declared the independence of Israel, and was greeted with wide applause. The Speaker also alluded to the absence of Soviet Jewry “from this great day not only for Israel but also for the entire Jewish people.”

President Shazar also recalled “all those not with us on this day, great former communities of Poland and Germany and of all the other countries whose Jews were either destroyed or prevented from attending.

Among the many dignitaries present were Dr. Eugen Gerstenmaier, president of the Bundestag, the lower House of West Germany’s Parliament; Dr. Horace M. King, Speaker of the British House of Commons; American Senators Clifford Case of New Jersey and Donald Russel of South Carolina, and U.S. Representatives Frank Borton of New York and Cornelius Gallagher of New Jersey.


As the nightfall came, a brightly lit menorah in the front of the new building could be seen throughout Jerusalem, while from all adjacent hills, blazing torches greeted the new building.

The day’s events began when Knesset clerk Moshe Rosetti announced that everything was ready. A long stream of automobiles and buses drove to the hill on which the building is located. The participants made their way to the dedication scene through streets which were forests of flags, pennants and emblems. A fleet of ambulances and first aid stations had been set up at the building site.

Scores of torchlight parades were held last night, and representatives of the foreign Parliaments toured Jerusalem yesterday. They visited Mount Herzl, Mount Zion and David’s Tomb. Some of the visiting Parliamentarians planted trees to commemorate the occasion.

One of the first ceremonies was the naming yesterday of one of the city’s streets for the late James de Rothschild, in the presence of Baroness Rothschild. The visiting Speakers were given a reception by Foreign Minister Abba Eban. Aharon Becker, general secretary of the Histadrut, Israel’s labor federation, was host at a reception for the visiting Parliamentarians. The Icelandic leader expressed the gratification of his colleagues at “meeting the upper house of Israel’s labor.”

The rear of the huge Knesset building overlooks the Judean Hills and the city. The structure includes a large assembly hall, offices, restrooms for the Premier and Cabinet members, countless committee rooms and conference halls and three restaurants. In contrast to most Parliamentary buildings, the bar in the new Knesset building is a modest one, with room for only about a dozen people.

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