Post six-day war footage of Egyptian Monastery made public by Israel's national library

The collection includes texts from as early as the 1100s, written in Arabic, Syriac, Greek, Armenian and Georgian and relating to early Christian religion and Church Fathers.

Greek Psalms and Cantica, ca 1504. (photo credit: THE HOLY MONASTERY OF ST. CATHERINE AT MOUNT SINAI/VIA NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL DIGITAL COLLECTION)
Greek Psalms and Cantica, ca 1504.
(photo credit: THE HOLY MONASTERY OF ST. CATHERINE AT MOUNT SINAI/VIA NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL DIGITAL COLLECTION)

Some 1,600 Christian manuscripts and numerous photographs and film footage from after the Six Day War are now available for free public viewing, the National Library of Israel (NLI) has announced.

The documents were originally archived at Saint Catherine's Monastery in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Founded by Justinian I over 1,500 years ago, the monastery is home to the oldest functional library in the world.

During the 1960s, the Jewish National and University Library, now the National Library of Israel, was permitted by the Greek Orthodox Archbishop to microfilm the manuscripts. Later, the aging microfilms were digitally archived in order to preserve them.

The collection includes texts from as early as the 1100s CE, written in Arabic, Syriac, Greek, Armenian and Georgian, relating to early Christian religion and Church Fathers.

Also now viewable online are photos of Saint Catherine's Monastery which were taken by Israelis during the country's occupation of the Sinai Peninsula following the Six Day War, in addition to color film footage taken by Jacques Soussana, a former employee of the library, that was donated to the NLI by his wife and digitally archived in cooperation with the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive.

Soldier, monk at Sinai, 1967. (credit: BORIS CARMI/MEITAR COLLECTION, PRITZKER FAMILY NATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION, NLI)Soldier, monk at Sinai, 1967. (credit: BORIS CARMI/MEITAR COLLECTION, PRITZKER FAMILY NATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION, NLI)

Dr. Stefan Litt, curator of the NLI's Humanities Collection who led the project, emphasized the value of the collection for Christian scholars, saying that "the digital images of these manuscripts are truly priceless, particularly for scholars of Orthodox Greek Christianity. They show us how the collection's manuscripts looked more than fifty years ago and are now safely preserved for the long-term."