Cookies

The National Library of Israel website uses cookies to improve your browsing experience. Continued use of the website constitutes consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our privacy policy

  1. Home
  2. At Your Service
  3. Who We Are
  4. The History of the National Library
 The History of the National Library

The History of the National Library

History of the National Library

A call to establish a central library in Jerusalem first appeared in Rabbi Abraham Heschel Levine Volozin's article, "A Call", in the  Habazeleth journal in 1872.

A call to establish a central library in Jerusalem first appeared in Rabbi Abraham Heschel Levine Volozin's article, "A Call", in the  Habazeleth journal in 1872.

Since its establishment in 1892, the Library has had several homes throughout the city of Jerusalem and several different names as well. In November 1960, the Library moved to its current residence at the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Library is preparing to move to its new location in Jerusalem's National Quarter ("Kiryat HaLeom") in 2021. The Library received its new name, "The National Library of Israel" in July 2008.

Over the years, the Library has accumulated both new and antique works pertaining to Jewish intellectual heritage, as well as books published in various parts of the Jewish world. When the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was established in 1925, the Library was officially named "The Jewish National and University Library" and the scope of the collections was greatly expanded.

Until 1948, the Library was located on the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After the War of Independence, the Library was relocated several times within Jerusalem until it moved to its current location on the Givat Ram Campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in November, 1960.

In July 2008, subsequent to the enactment of the National Library Law of 2007, the Library was renamed "The National Library of Israel".

The Library serves researchers and students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as various other research and academic institutions, in addition to individual readers from Israel and abroad. The Library's Reference Department offers its services to all, whether located in Israel or abroad.

The Library serves three traditional roles: It is the national library of the State of Israel, the national library of the Jewish people, and the central research library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the subjects of Jewish Studies, Islamic and Middle-Eastern Studies, and in the General Humanities.

As part of its role as the National Library of Israel, the Library receives and preserves, by law, all books, newspapers, CDs, records, and recordings published in Israel, regardless of language or religious affiliation.

As part of its role as the National Library of the Jewish people, the Library collects any publication that pertains to Jews and Judaism, from anywhere in the world, including anti-Semitic compositions. A considerable amount of space is reserved for compositions written in Hebrew script: Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic. The Library's Hebraica and Judaica collections are among the most comprehensive in the world, although many compositions are still missing, especially ancient books which are no longer to be found. Rounding out this collection are compositions dealing with the cultures and lands where Jews have lived in the past or are currently still living.

As part of its role as the central research library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Library holds the world's most important collection in the field of Jewish Studies. The Library also contains one of the world's leading collections in Far and Middle-Eastern Studies and Islamic Studies, as well as an important collection in the General Humanities: History, Philosophy, Classics, Christian Literature, and more.

The National Library includes several reading rooms: the Judaica Reading Room, the Islam and Middle East Reading Room, the General Reading Room, the Press Reading Room, the music library which houses the National Sound Archive, the Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism Reading Room (Gershom Scholem Library), the Eran Laor Cartographic Collection, the Edelstein Collection (dedicated to the history of science), the Special Collections Reading Room (where archival material and manuscripts can be viewed), and more.

Apart from books and newspapers, the Library contains a variety of collections, among them the personal archives of writers and scholars such as Martin Buber, S.Y. Agnon, Itzik Manger, A.T. Greenberg, S. Izhar, A.B. Yehoshua, Haim Beer, and many others. The Library also houses the archives of world renowned researchers such as Isaac Newton, collections of Jewish and non-Jewish manuscripts – including illustrated and non-illustrated manuscripts of the Bible – and a collection of photocopies of nearly every Jewish manuscript from around the world.

Over the last several years, ongoing cultural and educational projects have been taking place with the goal of exposing the Library's treasures to all that are interested – via the internet and free of charge. Thanks to the David and Fela Shapell Family Digitization Project, the following are now online and accessible to the public: the Library's Ketubot collection, manuscripts of the Mishnah and the Talmud, antique maps of Jerusalem, Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, the Einstein Archive, historical Jewish and Israeli press, and more.

These ongoing projects, along with exhibitions, tours, and concerts being held at the Library, are part of the continuing effort to ensure the National Library's proper standing as one of the leading cultural institutions in Israel and the Jewish world.

Photo: David Harris

Photo: David Harris

Photo: Miriam Shamir, the Dora Gad Archive

Photo: Miriam Shamir, the Dora Gad Archive