Unscheduled reading

An outdoor library stocked mostly by residents opens in a German Colony park.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat helps kick off the opening by reading to a group of children in the park. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat helps kick off the opening by reading to a group of children in the park.
Dozens of parents and children in Jerusalem gathered along with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat Sunday for the opening of Tahanat Kriya, an outdoor lending library in Jan Smuts Garden, a small park in the capital’s Germany Colony neighborhood. The library, built on the site of an old, out-of-use bus stop, holds over 100 books, with residents encouraged to donate and withdraw books at their leisure.
Tahanat Kriya, which translates as “reading station,” was the brainchild of local resident Tamar Weiss, a fiction writer. She approached the Ginot Ha’ir Community Council with the proposal after seeing a similar project just south of the German Colony. The council serves some 50,000 residents from the German Colony, Greek Colony, Rehavia, Talbiyeh, Katamon, Yemin Moshe, Kiryat Shmuel and Nayot neighborhoods.
“I just had this idea and I was fortunate to find many excellent partners,” Weiss said.
Community members involved in the initiative hope to maintain a steady balance between the withdrawal and donation of books. The Jerusalem Library provided several of the books donated Sunday.
“We have a few residents who have been waiting to bring out their books,” said Kineret Kahana, the deputy director of Ginot Ha’ir Community Council.
“Anyone is welcome to bring any book.”
Within hours of opening, the new library’s shelves were largely filled, with both English and Hebrew books. Children, parents and residents rushed through, many trading piles of books from home for a single book on the shelves that had piqued their interest.
Most attendees found out about the library’s opening via word of mouth, according to Alisa Raz, one of the community members who helped lobby for the project. Only a few fliers were handed out prior to the event, and not much was done through the Internet, either.
Nine-year-old Ayalet Gretz added 15 books to the library and took out a volume from Minheret Hazman, a book series about Israel in the past 100 years. She and her sister were encouraged to bring their books from home by their parents.
“It’s very nice here. Children can take these books to read and the books here are for children of all ages,” she said.
Several parents stretched out on the park grass near the station to read to their children. Noah Salman, 48, read his kids a book on the German Colony.
“I just want to tell them the story of the buildings here,” he said. “They pass them every day and they don’t know the stories.”
Barkat helped kick off the opening by reading to a group of children in the park.
“What I love about it is that it’s the residents that came up with the initiative,” Barkat said. “I wish to see more of these initiatives all around the city and we will help the residents make this happen.”
Several children from the community who had been competing in a book-reading competition had the opportunity to meet Barkat during the library’s opening ceremony. The winner of the contest, Batchen Danzieger, a 14-year-old attending Ahavat Yisrael School, read 490 books in a year.
“I think it’s very interesting. Children will be able to read and help other children,” she said of the new library.
Not much is expected to change during the colder seasons. The library stations will be covered by tarps over the winter months to shelter the books, and the community board expects to keep the library open all year.
There is another cause for concern, however.
“Vandalism is my greatest concern,” said Jerusalem resident Jeff Gabbai. “We just need to remain on the lookout,” he added, while helping his wife place books onto the library shelves.