Chronicles of Theft, Preservation, and Appropriating at the Jewish National Library


Gish Amit

Publisher Van Leer Institute Press and Hakibbutz Hameuchad
Language Hebrew
Year of Publication 2014
Series Theory and Criticism in Context Series

Ex-Libris: Chronicles of Theft, Preservation, and Appropriating at the Jewish National Library tells the story of three events that took place within the national library: The “Diaspora Treasures” project, which after World War II brought to Jerusalem hundreds of thousands of books owned by Jews that had been looted by the Nazis; the collection during the 1948 war of 30,000 books that were owned by Palestinians; and the gathering of books and manuscripts from Yemenite Jews who arrived in Israel at the end of the 1940s and the beginning of the 1950s.

These books are evidence of both the severing of human beings from their heritage and of Zionism’s claim to ownership of the country’s Jewish past as well as its pre-Zionist past. They reveal the link between Zionist-national culture and European Orientalism and colonialism, and the consequent process of erasing and forgetting that Zionism imposed on both its adherents and its citizens. Amit’s book reveals the proximity between literature and sociopolitical violence, and it paints a new portrait of the national library in Jerusalem: not as an innocent space, surrounded by its frozen halls of the spirit, and not as a site of sealed history, but rather, above all, as a continuous present moving through the entanglements of its past—a space of wrongdoing and injustice that simultaneously offers us opportunities for recognition, correction, and forgiveness.

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