On what was a hill owned by the Greek Orthodox Church stands the National Library of Israel, a low-modern building clad in Jerusalem stone.
Here there are treasures which few are allowed to see. Kafka’s Hebrew vocabulary notebook, the first written evidence of the Yiddish language and the Crowns of Damascus, bibles smuggled out of Syria 20 years ago in a Mossad operation so classified that their existence in Israel was kept secret for years.
Now the National Library of Israel is dusting the cobwebs off some of the most prized jewels of its collection as it seeks to draw attention to a new effort to preserve – and publicise – these treasures. It’s pioneering a worldwide initiative to digitise every Hebrew manuscript in existence. It’s building a new home next to the Israeli parliament. On Sunday, it sent a prized manuscript handwritten by medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides to France, accompanied by bodyguards for display at the Louvre.
Later this month, the library is convening what it calls a Global Forum of luminaries – philanthropist Lord Rothschild, former US diplomat Elliott Abrams, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and others – to raise the profile of the collection. AP