From Riverdale, to Cairo, Cambridge and stops in between, Dr. Raquel Ukeles has now made her home in Jerusalem, working as the National Library’s Curator of the Islam and Middle East collection
. When you first meet Raquel, you are immediately struck both by her passion for her work and the clarity of her thinking. Holding a doctorate from Harvard University with a concentration on Islamic and Jewish studies, Raquel plays a critical role in shaping the Library’s direction for the future.
"I grew up in New York City, the product of a strong Jewish education,” Raquel shares, “but my scholarly pursuits have taken me to Cairo, Fez and Doha, where I absorbed the language and culture of the Arab world through intensive study and local friendships. My research interests in medieval Islamic law brought me to the National Library as a post-doctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shortly afterward I joined the staff of the National Library. I am honored to serve an institution so vital to the State of Israel and the Jewish people."
Beyond helping the National Library to shape its collection, Raquel sees her role as critical for opening the depth and breadth of Islamic and Arab culture to Israelis and throughout the world. “The National Library has an internationally renowned collection of Islam and Arabic material as well as one of the finest collections worldwide of material related to the history and culture of Arabs in Israel,” she offers. "We have an important role to play in preserving and making these resources broadly accessible." As the National Library continues its renewal
, she envisions an institution that fosters the desire for all patrons to learn both about themselves and about others. "I see the National Library as a 'big tent' where all are welcome and there is space for anyone who wishes to research, explore and understand."
Her efforts in this regard are already bearing fruit, as she notes that the Library has already taken important steps to better serve the Arab Israeli community and that more Arab Israelis are coming to the Library now than three years ago. “There is much more to do,” Raquel states, “but meaningful steps have been made to make this a national library for all Israelis.”