The National Library of Israel (NLI) had planned to hold an opening celebration for its new building in October, but since the war broke out it has delayed the festivities and instead is offering a program of online materials to help children in Israel and around the understand and cope with the conflict and tragedy.
Oren Weinberg, the CEO of NLI, thanked supporters from all over the world in a statement and offered prayers for the families of those who were killed and kidnapped, as well as for soldiers and their families. He promised that the new building would open as soon as possible, and said that the National Library is working on programs that will be helpful during the war:
“While the celebrations are delayed, the spirit and promise of the National Library of Israel will not be put on hold. In the meantime, we continue to work, remaining focused on the noble mission of Israel’s renewed National Library − a resource not just for this country but for the world. In the words of our country’s national anthem, ‘Hatikvah’ (‘The Hope’) we do not lose hope.”
How has the National Library of Israel been operating in time of war?
Since late October, several reading rooms have been opened and many scholars and readers have been enjoying the new building, ahead of its official opening.
For Israeli children, with many schools closed due to the war, NLI has launched a series of online writing and creativity workshops for schoolchildren. The initial Hebrew-language activity was over-subscribed almost immediately with 100 registrants. The program was then expanded to 10 sessions, including a session for teachers about the power of writing and the written word during times of crisis.
“Children are being exposed to the news about what is happening in Israel and there is already a need to help them process these events,” said Neta Shapira, the head of the Israel Center for Humanities Education (INCHE) at the NLI.
“We realized that we would have to move fast – as fast as the 24-hour news cycle – to equip teachers with relevant classroom materials and tools. We intend to continue producing more, based on the feedback we receive from our online educator communities because we expect that these events will reverberate and raise questions for a long time to come.”
For teachers and students abroad, the Global Education Center has created a program to help teachers abroad talk about the war, using materials from NLI’s collections.
These include worksheets to foster conversation about communal responsibility and solidarity; texts and primary sources that highlight the idea of support and collaboration between Jewish communities and individuals around the world at different times in history; and letters written by children during times of war – as well as lesson plans for guiding students in trying to understand the thoughts and emotions of the children who wrote the letters. A lesson plan for reading and discussing the power of prayer in difficult times is also part of the program.
In addition, the Global Education Center is offering an initiative, called, “Words Make a Difference,” giving students outside of Israel the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings about the events in the country through letters and drawings that will be sent to Israeli soldiers and families. These, like the many letters written by children in past wars, will be collected and preserved in the NLI collections.
“We, in Israel, have felt the outpouring of concern and goodwill from abroad,” said Shuvi Hoffman, NLI Global Jewish Education Manager.
“We wanted to give children in communities around the world the chance to do something that can really lift people’s spirits here during this very difficult time. Letters and drawings that kids can upload directly to our site are a wonderful way to make contact and express support and care.”
‘Words Can Make a Difference’ at: education-en.nli.org.il/specialprograms/words-can-make-a-difference
English-language worksheets and source materials at: education-en.nli.org.il/
Hebrew-language resources for students and teachers at: merkazruach.nli.org.il/together