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To 120 and Beyond

 To 120 and Beyond – a Cause for Celebration

120 sounds like a ripe old age – but for the National Library of Israel (NLI), 120 is simply a meaningful milestone on the path to posterity – and a reason to celebrate. For 120 years, NLI has nurtured creativity – protecting and preserving the cultural treasures of previous generations, which have inspired the generations that followed. In this spirit, the Library has invited prominent Israeli artists and writers to make a creative statement based on an object of inspiration from the National Library’s treasure trove. Throughout this anniversary year, the public will be invited to special events to view these new productions. Readers the first exhibition in this series is currently on display.

​Israel's aspiring writers will make their mark on the cultural world shared by their fellow artists through a special program developed by NLI. It is almost axiomatic that writers and libraries are inextricably entwined. This is especially true for Israeli writers who have easy access to  the Library’s extensive archives and unrivaled collections of Judaica, Israel, Islam and the Middle East, and General Humanities. 
As part of this year’s celebrations, NLI has established a two-year pilot project to inspire the next generation of Israeli writers. Surrounded by the treasures of the Library’s core collections in a vibrant intellectual environment, four National Library Fellows will enjoy a rare opportunity to interact with their peers in an atmosphere conducive to intellectual and cultural creativity.
While writing is fundamentally a solitary occupation, readers are an essential adjunct to the creative process. This is articulated through the images featured in the current exhibition Readers. For this installation, noted Israeli photographer Aliza Auerbach drew her inspiration from the readers, who visit and use NLI on a daily basis, photographing them in the National Library’s reading rooms and public spaces. During the three months she spent in NLI, she recorded moments of intimacy between the reader and the book, the reader and the reading space, between the reading community and the librarians – capturing their expressive faces and features as they moved through the halls and corridors, and even in the cafeteria.
In her introduction, Member of Knesset Ruth Calderon, who prior to joining the Knesset served as the National Library’s Head of Culture and Educational Programs, quoted from Martin Buber’s Advice to Frequenters of Libraries.
“After you have visited the library ten times to look at books, go once to look at the readers. Look round the reading room not in order to observe them, but to know in your heart now, by various paths and yet by the same road, they aspire to what you yourself aspire: that is to say, how they strive to effect contact with the spirit, the spirit that has been transmitted and received – that has been preserved.
… Really look at the readers, see them all together as men and each one as a person: see the features, gestures, and postures of each. Thus you will learn something you will probably not be able to learn as well anywhere else: Books are great, but man is greater."
She noted – in the spirit of Martin Buber's words – that the exhibit documents the individuals, bibliophiles both old and young, whose eyes, hands and minds infuse the reading rooms with soul and spirit, transforming them into places of inspiration and sites of pilgrimage. These photographs are a manifestation of the individual reader, whether a regular visitor or random passer-by, Ms. Calderon said.
The accumulated portraits of readers and visitors, perusing and contemplating, creates a contemporary picture of the unique and notable National Library—an Israeli institution with an illustrious past, a present filled with a renewed mission and vision, and a focus fixed firmly on the future.