Library, Jewish National and University

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LIBRARY, JEWISH NATIONAL AND UNIVERSITY , the national library of Israel and the Jewish people, also serving as the library of the *Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The library dates from 1892, when *B'nai B'rith founded a public library in Jerusalem to which in 1895 a Bialystok physician, Joseph *Chasanowich (Chazanowicz), presented his collection of 8,800 books, mostly in Hebrew. Other gifts followed and by 1920, when the library was taken over by the Zionist organization, the number of volumes had reached about 30,000. Under the direction of the philosopher Samuel Hugo *Bergman, who was librarian from 1920 till 1935, the number of volumes increased to 300,000. Between 1936 and 1946, under Gotthold *Weil, about 150,000 books were added. When the Hebrew University was opened on Mount Scopus in 1925, the library was transferred to it, and in 1930 it was installed in the Wolffsohn building.

In 1948, when communication with Mount Scopus was broken off as a result of the War of Independence, the library contained nearly half a million books. Curt *Wormann, who had been appointed librarian only a few months earlier, had to build it up anew in western Jerusalem, where it was housed in the Terra Sancta building. With the help of friends and supporters in Israel and abroad, it acquired tens of thousands of books and was brought back into working condition. In the years following World War ii, the university (later joined by the Ministry of Religious Affairs) salvaged hundreds of thousands of books in Europe, as well as hundreds of manuscripts (chiefly Hebraica and Judaica), the remnants of Jewish public and private libraries looted by the Nazis. Many of these were incorporated into the National Library; the rest were distributed among university, public, synagogue, and yeshivah libraries throughout the country.

Following an agreement with the Jordanian government in 1958 (through the mediation of the secretary-general of the un, Dag Hammarskjöld), about 350,000 books from Mount Scopus were gradually transferred to the Israel-held sector of Jerusalem. In 1960 a library building was opened on the new campus at Givat Ram. At the beginning of 1968, the library possessed about 1,500,000 volumes, over a quarter of them Hebraica and Judaica, together with 6,100 Hebrew and 800 other manuscripts. In 1962, the Institute of Microfilms of Hebrew Manuscripts was transferred to the library from the Ministry of Education and Culture. From then until 1971 it had acquired 25,000 photocopies of Hebrew manuscripts from 18 countries, together with thousands of photographs of *genizah fragments. In 2005 it housed approximately five million items. From 1924 the library published a bibliographical quarterly, *Kirjath Sepher, listing all current publications in Palestine and Israel and all Judaic publications appearing elsewhere. An Institute of Hebrew Bibliography in the library records all books published in Hebrew characters. Since 1956, a graduate library school has been functioning at the library.

The library possesses a number of special collections: the Zalman Schocken collection of Hebrew incunabula; the Ignaz Goldziher collection of Orientalia (especially of Islamica and Arabica); the Harry Friedenwald collection on Jews in medicine; the Abraham Schwadron (Sharon) collection of Jewish autographs and portraits; the Immanuel Loew collection of Judaica and Hebraica (including his personal archives); the A.S. Yahuda collection of Orientalia, Hebraica, and Judaica; and a collection of Jewish and non-Jewish manuscripts from all over the world, including illuminated and non-illuminated manuscripts of the Bible. The library also has the personal archives of Ahad Ha-Am, Martin Buber, Joseph Klausner, Stefan Zweig, S.J. Agnon, Itzik Manger, Uri Zevi Greenberg, S. Yizhar, A.B. Yehoshua, and others. It also houses the Albert Einstein archive. It includes reading rooms for various subjects, such as Judaism, the East, Journalism, Music, Kabbalah and Jewish Thought, Maps and Travelogues, History of Science, etc. The Library aims to digitalize a large number of its items to make them available on the Internet.


A. Ya'ari, Beit ha-Sefarim ha-Le'ummi veha-Universita'i bi-Yrushalayim (1942); The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1966), 234–50; Y. Haezrahi, Beit ha-Sefarim ha-Le'ummi ve-ha-Universita'i (1967);

[Shlomo Shunami /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]