U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro (left) is shown the Damascus Codex (photo: Polina Aizenberg, NLI)
"I could stay here for hours!", exclaimed U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro on his recent visit. Ambassador Shapiro, known for his fluent Hebrew and broad knowledge of Middle Eastern and Jewish history, came to the Library with a small group of representatives from the Embassy and the American Center who were given a special tour of the Library including a private viewing of a range of treasures. Items displayed included: Maimonides' commentary on the Mishnah in his own handwriting; the famed 13th century Damascus Codex; an exquisite illuminated Persian Quran; and a records book chronicling the journey of a Jerusalemite who traveled to the United States for fundraising purposes in the 19th century.
The following week, the National Library welcomed Italian Ambassador Francesco M. Talo', Cultural Attache Elena Loewenthal, and a special delegation from Italy, who are visiting Israel to mark the completion of the Babylonian Talmud Translation Project, a state-funded initiative to translate the Talmud into Italian.
The Italian delegation presents a first edition Italian translation of the Babylonian Talmud to the National Library (Photo: Hanan Cohen, NLI)
Professor Stefania Giannini, Italian Minister of Education, Universities and Research, presented NLI Chairman David Blumberg with the first volume of the translated Talmud. Professor Giannini spoke about the importance of the Talmud project to promote understanding of Jewish culture and her wish to encourage cultural cooperation between Israel and Italy. The delegation also included Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome and the project's director, Professor Clelia Piperno.
In collaboration with the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, the National Library of Israel is hosting a symposium in Venice on July 28 as part of events marking 500 years of the Venice Ghetto. The event, 'Venice and the Hebrew Book', will focus on the city's importance in the development of Hebrew printing.
One day after the Italian delegation's visit, British Ambassador David Quarrey CMG visited the Library for the first time with a small delegation of his own.
Ambassador Quarrey said that he had seen the British Library's Judaica collection in advance of his posting in Israel and had been looking forward to visiting the NLI. He was very pleased to hear that the NLI and the British Library are already cooperating on the digitization of the BL's significant collection of Hebrew manuscripts as part of "Ktiv: The International Collection of Digitized Hebrew Manuscripts", a project shepherded by NLI in partnership with the Friedberg Jewish Manuscript Society.
British Ambassador David Quarrey (center) and his partner Aldo Henriquez (left) view National Library treasures (Photo: Hanan Cohen, NLI)
NLI Head of Collections Dr. Aviad Stollman, showed the guests a specially curated display of NLI treasures, including a 15th century Italian Mahzor (festival prayer book); letters and drawings by Claude Condor, Head of the 19th century Palestine Exploration Fund; and a Kashmiri Quran from 1601.