The Story of Israel’s National Library

Located not far from the center of Jerusalem, the National Library of Israel holds among its many treasures medieval haggadahs, ancient Hebrew manuscripts, and the suicide note of the Austrian Jewish writer Stefan Zweig. Aviya Kushner recounts its origins:

In 1890, a Jewish doctor in Bialystok, Yosef Khazanovich, started to charge his patients in books instead of rubles for making house calls. He sent 10,000 books to Jerusalem, and in 1902 Midrash Abarbanel was officially opened—the first free library in Palestine; that was the beginning of what is now the National Library. The Seventh Zionist Congress, held in 1905, decided to build a national library with Midrash Abarbanel as its foundation. So yes, there was a [national] library before there was a state. For years the library was run by its first director, Samuel Hugo Bergmann, a close friend of Franz Kafka. . . .

People—both visitors and employees—are the true delights of a visit to the National Library. On my visits to figure out what exactly it held, I checked out the trilingual circulation desk and saw Ḥasidim, Ḥaredim, secular students, and two women in hijabs; there were also career eccentrics, pulpit rabbis, and Gershom Scholem obsessives, along with two chatty women in the cafeteria who did not hesitate to tell me that they were researching Israeli songs. In the bathroom I encountered tourists. And everywhere, I saw scholars—passionate devotees of the library, many clearly in a state I can describe only as determined bliss.

Read more at Forward

More about: Arts & Culture, Gershom Scholem, Israel & Zionism, National Library of Israel, Stefan Zweig

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7