The Library's main reading hall is spread over three levels. The hall contains books that are part of our five core collections: Israel, Judaica, Islam, Humanities and the Gershom Scholem Collection. Books ordered from the storeroom arrive to the reading hall. Alongside the books, you will find quiet, comfortable workstations, study rooms, computers and a staff of professional librarians who are happy to offer advice and help out.
In addition, the Special Collections Reading Room is also available to you.
Sunday-Thursday: 09 am – 8 pm
Friday: 9 am – 1 pm
Library services will be provided up to 15 minutes before closing.
The Judaica and Israel Collection in the reading hall serves as a hub of knowledge and information for anyone interested in Jewish studies and the history of the Land of Israel. Scholars, students, tour guides and others come to sit in this hall and study the books in this rich collection, thus forming a community of learning.
The collection is organized by topic, with each topic represented by a Hebrew letter or combination of letters followed by a serial number. Among the main topics in the Judaica Collection: Jewish history, the Bible, rabbinical literature, linguistics and Hebrew literature. The Israel Collection includes such topics as the history of Jerusalem, the history of the Land of Israel, national security as well as the society, education system and economy of the State of Israel. The collection places an emphasis on primary sources in their original language alongside research literature in Hebrew, English and other languages. The collection in the hall numbers nearly 50,000 books and journals.
You may request personal guidance relating to the collection. This service is available Sunday-Wednesday, 10 am – 4 pm.
For brief questions and to coordinate a guidance session, you can contact the Reference and Guidance Department.
The "Gershom Scholem Library" or "Gershom Scholem" Collection is a research library dedicated to Kabbalah, Hasidism and Jewish mysticism, located within the National Library of Israel. This is a unique library, unlike any other in the world. It is based on the large personal collection of the 20th century's greatest scholar of Kabbalah, Prof. Gershom Scholem. After Scholem's passing, the collection was transferred to the Jewish National and University Library, known today as the National Library of Israel. The collection is displayed in a separate reading room of its own.
The Gershom Scholem Reading Room is located within the National Library, next to the Judaica Reading Hall. The books are arranged just as they were arranged when they were in Scholem's private home. First, the primary sources (arranged by chronological order in accordance with the historical development of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism – from Sefer Yetzirah to Hasidism), followed by academic studies arranged in the same order. Finally, the collection includes many other books on topics that drew Scholem's interest, such as history, philosophy, psychology, other religions, mysticism in general and literature. The collection also includes many journals, dictionaries and encyclopedias as well as thousands of rare books. Some of these were originally part of the collections of Scholem's students - Professor Yeshayahu Tishbi and Professor Rivka Schatz-Uffenheimer. Hundreds of photographs of Kabbalistic manuscripts that are held in libraries across the globe can also be found in the collection. These photographs were taken by Scholem and his students.
Sunday-Thursday 9 am – 8 pm (rare books service available until 3:45 pm)
Dr. Zvi Leshem - Director of the Scholem Library
The Islam and Middle East Collection in the reading hall draws readers, scholars and students from across Israel, while also serving as a second home for many European and American researchers. The collection contains a range of different reference sources, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, academic databases and journals that are available to all visitors.
The humanities and social sciences collection is designed to support research in the Library's main areas of expertise - Judaism, Israel, Islam and the Middle East, and also to provide the general public with information in these and other areas of interest.
The reading room includes a large number of primary sources, reference materials and academic journals, organized by topics:
The Reading Room also holds a large selection of books in the fields of the social sciences (political science, international relations, economics, political ideology, terrorism, human rights), general literature, linguistics of European languages and art.
The Special Collections Reading Room is meant for viewing rare items and archival materials as well as special collections such as the collection of photographed/micfrofilmed Hebrew manuscripts, the Music Collection and the Cartographic Collection. In order to view rare items or archival materials you must first obtain proper approval. It is also possible to book a consultation session in the reading room, pertaining to the relevant fields.
Among the rare items preserved at the Library are early printed books from the 15th to 17th centuries, special publications of which only limited examples remain, editions that were published in small quantities, and so forth. In addition, the Rare Items Collection includes some 11,000 Hebrew manuscripts and around 2,000 manuscripts written in other languages. Most of these are in Arabic but there is also a smaller number of Latin manuscripts and a few additional texts in Samaritan, Syriac, Armenian, Ge'ez and other languages.
Our collection includes many manuscripts donated by Abraham Shalom Yahuda (including the Isaac Newton Collection and a rich collection of Arabic texts), incunabula from the Schocken Collection, rare Hebrew books from the Mehlmann Collection, printed works on the topics of medicine and science from the Friedenwald Collection, the Eran Laor Cartographic Collection and many more.
The Library preserves hundreds of archives of individuals and institutions that were compiled over many years and which hold great historical and cultural value. They are handled by our Archives Department which registers and catalogs them. The archives of thousands of Jewish communities and organizations are preserved at The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People. These can also be viewed in the Special Collections Reading Room. Another rich collection is the Music Collection at the National Library of Israel. Archives that have a connection to the field of music can also be ordered here.
The Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts collects copies of all Hebrew manuscripts which exist in public and private collections in Israel and around the world. This collection is primarily preserved in microfilm form. These microfilms can be ordered to the Special Collections Reading Room. There is no need for special approval to view this material but it does need to be ordered ahead of time. Today there are over 76,000 microfilm reels, which comprise over 90% of the known Hebrew manuscripts in the world and which can be freely viewed by scholars and other visitors. Thousands of manuscripts have also been digitally scanned. Most of these can be viewed online, although a minority are only viewable from within the NLI building.
Alongside the Manuscripts Department and the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, the Hebrew Palaeography Project conducted codicological and palaeographic research relating to medieval Hebrew manuscripts. The NLI offers scholars and others visitors unique services which can be helpful in the study and comparison of different Hebrew manuscripts, with the help of the Sfardata database.
In addition, manuscripts can be scanned in compliance with our scanning regulations. A scan of a manuscript can also be ordered.
Important: Scanning permission must be obtained from the library that owns the original manuscript,
The cost of scanning from microfilm is 2 NIS per image.
The reading room contains a self-service photocopying and scanning station and there is also a special scanner available for rare and archival items. It is also possible to take your own photos. All this is done under supervision and after receiving approval from the desk attendant, in order to preserve the state of the item.
Reading Room Guidelines
Viewing rare and archival items requires special approval.
Due to the importance of the items brought here, the Special Collections Reading Room is equipped with security cameras. Visitors are requested to comply with our Guidelines for Handling Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Reading room opening hours:
Sunday-Thursday: 9 am – 6 pm
Rare books: 9 am – 3:45 pm
Rare books can be collected until 3 pm.
Other Library services will be provided up to 15 minutes before closing time.
The reading room is closed on Fridays.
The Special Collections Reading Room is found on floor -3 (under the main reading hall).
Telephone for questions and enquiries: 074-7336266, 074-7336480.
For questions about microfilmed/photographed Hebrew manuscripts: [email protected]
For questions about archives: [email protected]
Dr. Alexander Gordin is in charge of the reading room and is the coordinator of public services for our special collections.