National Library of Israel
he National Library of Israel was founded in 1892 as a world center for the preservation of Jewish thought and culture. Today, the National Library is the central institution devoted to national memory, not only of the State of Israel, but also of the Jewish people dispersed across the globe. The Library's mission, by law, is to "collect, preserve, cultivate and endow the treasures of knowledge, heritage and culture in general, with an emphasis on the Land of Israel, the State of Israel and the Jewish people in particular".
The resources of the National Library comprise over 5 million volumes of books (including incunabula), manuscripts, periodicals, personal archives, music, maps, photographs, and audio recordings. The Library's collections are divided into four core areas: Judaica Collection, Israel Collection, Islam and Middle East Collection, Humanities collection. The quality and scope of the collections draw researchers, institutions, and individuals from all over the world.
The National Library of Israel is open to all. Groups interested in a guided tour with their own guide are requested to coordinate their arrival with the Visitors Center.
The following is a proposal for a self-guided tour.
After entering the Library turn right. On the wall to the left is a time-line illustrating the chronicles of the National Library, from its establishment in 1892 through the renewal process it is undergoing in the 21st century. From here it is suggested to go up to the first floor. You can use the stairs adjacent to the entrance of the Library or take the elevator near the guard's post, on this floor.
The tour includes entering the reading rooms. Cell phones must be silenced or turned off so as not to disturb the readers.
Ardon Windows: Isaiah's vision of eternal peace by Mordecai Ardon*
Mordecai Ardon's stained glass windows are dedicated to Isaiah's vision of eternal peace:
And many people shall come and say: "Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
The left panel depicts the roads taken by the nations on their way to Jerusalem. Each road is marked by the verse, "Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…" in several different languages and alphabets including Latin, Greek, and Arabic.
The middle panel focuses on Jerusalem. At the bottom of the panel, the city wall is represented as the Dead Sea Scroll of the Book of Isaiah. Above the wall a piece of parchment carries part of the prophecy, "and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares". Next to the parchment one can see a network of blue circles and lines – the Kabbalistic Tree of Sefirot. To the left of the Tree is a composition of Sefirot made of concentric circles, also derived from the Book of the Zohar.
The right panel is Isaiah's vision come true: guns and shells beaten into spades that hover above them.
* Mordecai Ardon (1896-1992) was an Israeli painter. In 1963 he was awarded the Israel Prize for painting. Ardon's unique style received world recognition and fame. The painter commenced work the "Ardon Windows" in 1980 and finished in 1984.
To the left of the Ardon Windows is the Gershom Scholem Collection, the next stop of the tour.
The Gershom Scholem Collection (Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday 09:00 – 18:00; Friday 09:00 – 12:45)
The Gershom Scholem Library, also known as the Gershom Scholem Collection, is a reading library specializing in the fields of Kabbalah, Hasidism and Jewish mysticism. It is the only collection of its kind in the world. The collection is based on the large personal library of Gershom Scholem, the renowned researcher of the Kabbalah. After Scholem's death, the collection was transferred to the National Library of Israel. The collection is housed in two dedicated reading rooms.
The collection includes some 35,000 items relating to the field of Kabbalah. The heart of the collection includes books (including numerous rare items), articles and facsimile manuscripts owned by Professor Gershom Scholem. Scholem edited many of the books, and added countless informative and critical comments in the margins and on the opening pages. These comments include many aspects that have not yet been published, adding a further dimension to the books and illuminating unknown aspects of the study of the Kabbalah. An additional part of the collection, which is growing steadily, consists of original literature and research works in the fields of Kabbalah and Hasidism. Existing and new publications are acquired by the Library through the Gershom Scholem Collection.
After exiting the Gershom Scholem Collection, turn right. To the right of the elevator is the Bella and Harry Wexner Libraries of Sound and Song.
The Music Collection and Sound Archive (Opening Hours: Sunday – Thursday 09:00 – 18:00; Friday 09:00 – 12:45)
The National Sound Archives, part of the Music Department, has the world's largest collection of ethnographic and commercial recordings of Israeli and Jewish music. The collection also includes non-Jewish music. The collection includes printed material (such as books and scores), video and audio recordings (including phonograph records, compact disks and cassettes), and archival material (drafts of oeuvres, research notes, correspondence, pictures, documents, announcements, programs, newspaper items, private recordings, etc.). The department documents, preserves and avails to the public all materials relating to the music of Eretz Israel, and to Israeli and Jewish music.
At the front desk you can receive headphones and listen to compilations on the Library's Music website.
The Eran Laor Cartographic Collection (Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 09:00-14:00)*
The Eran Laor Collection includes ancient maps from as early as the fifteenth century, ancient atlases, travel books covering journeys to the Land of Israel and around the world, travel guides, the works of researchers who studied the Land of Israel in the nineteenth century, historical geography works, Biblical dictionaries and copies of the Bible and the New Testament that include maps. The collection also includes modern maps of Israel and the other countries in the region, as well as contemporary maps published in Israel and forwarded to the Library in accordance with the legal deposit laws. At the core of the Laor Collection there are some 1,500 ancient maps of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The collection also includes ancient maps of other parts of the world and modern maps of Israel and of Israeli cities (from before and after the establishment of the State). The collection includes maps in European languages, Hebrew, Yiddish and Arabic.
* If a staff member is available, a short tour can be requested. It is advised to schedule the tour upon arriving at the Library (074-7336430)
To the left of the Eran Laor Collection is the Edelstein Collection of the history, philosophy and sociology of science.
The Edelstein Collection of the History, Philosophy and Sociology of Science (Opening Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 09:00-14:00)
The Edelstein Collection covers all areas of the History, philosophy and sociology of science. It includes sources as well as secondary literature, periodicals and a reference section. This comprehensive collection covers the history of science, from the 16th century up to the present, and focuses primarily on the history of chemistry and alchemy, and the history of dyeing, bleaching and dry-cleaning of textiles. Additional collections include: The history of medicine in general as well as monographs on special medical topics: hygiene, materia medica, physiology, anatomy, surgery, an antiquarian collection devoted to diet and food, and a comprehensive collection of History of 20th Century Physics and Science.