Tel Aviv-Yafo Public Libraries: Working in Times of War
Preliminary note: The first library we presented on our blog was the Sha'ar Zion-Beit Ariela Library, the Tel Aviv-Yafo Public Library. We feel a special connection to this library, as does Cologne's Germania Judaica: Cologne and Tel Aviv are twin cities. After the war broke out in Israel, we asked our colleagues in Tel Aviv if they had the time and energy to send us a brief report on how they are experiencing the situation and how they are currently working. We received two articles on 15 November 2023: One describes the work of the library since 7 October and the other the importance of the library for the families of the hostages – combined with an appeal for donations, which we are happy to pass on.
Following Hamas’ terrorist attack on the residents of southern Israel on 7 October and the beginning of the war against Israel, the residents of the entire country remained in their homes during the first week. The educational institutions were closed as were most cultural centers and the majority of workplaces were not accessible.
The square in front of the Sha'ar Zion-Beit Ariela Library and the Art Museum has become a meeting place and center for relatives and friends of the hostages (© Sha'ar Zion-Beit Ariela Library)
Being in a state of war with an unimaginable number of people killed, wounded, kidnapped, exposed to the horror that our brothers in the south went through, under the threat of missiles, under mental stress and facing the recruitment of family members to the army, we still felt that we could learn and benefit professionally from our experience during the Corona period. That was a time when people were sitting at home, without access to work, education, culture. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tel Aviv-Yafo Public Libraries (Sha'ar Zion-Beit Ariela Library) organized a series of cultural events on Zoom for all ages, in order to reduce stress and help people to still enjoy culture from home and stay away a bit from the events of the hour that were being broadcasted on the news.
More than anything, this need has arisen again during this time of war, when people not only have to stay at home, but are also under emotional pressure, stress and anxiety. The children do not go to school and they need to be activated and happy. We first started with Zoom sessions just for children, free of charge, such as story hours, comics and creative workshops.
Distraction from Fear and Worry: Culture by Zoom (© Sha'ar Zion-Beit Ariela Library)
An Hour of Culture against Anxiety
Later on, we felt that adults were also emotionally open to an hour of culture, a lecture on a general topic, a reading club, and indeed the responses were emotional and moving, because this eased a little bit the loneliness and anxiety and detached them from the difficult news that are broadcast all the time.
For the children, we produced a musical story time as a live program from the library once a week with the best artists for children. It was broadcast live on Facebook and remained online for a few days. The number of views was huge and the children and parents had an hour of fun. After two weeks, the libraries began gradually to reopen.
Children's Library Meir Shapira in the Sha'ar Zion-Beit Ariela Library (© Sha'ar Zion-Beit Ariela Library)
Take Away Books
Where there is a shelter, we have allowed the public entry for a short time to loan books. In libraries where there is no shelter, we benefited again from our experience in the Corona period and made it possible to borrow pre-ordered books (take-away). We are subject to the instructions of the Home Front Command and are permitted to open the libraries at any time depending on the security situation. With the reopening of the libraries, we have introduced on-site events for children such as story hours and creative workshops, all at no cost.
The city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, like numerous of the cities of central Israel, currently hosts many people in hotels and guest houses who have been evacuated from their homes in the south and north, areas that are affected by fighting and security risks. All the citizens of the country have come together to care for them and continue to care for them, both for basic necessities such as the supply of clothes, hygiene products, cooking, laundry, as well as for spiritual needs such as activities for children and reading books.
Gradually, the children have returned to nurseries and schools. The libraries continue to broadcast lectures for adults with the best writers and artists. For the audience, the meetings are free, and the artists can make a living as long as all the cultural centers are still closed to the public.
Efrat Shoham, Adverting Manager, Tel Aviv-Yafo Public Libraries
Dear friends and colleagues,
We were very moved by your letter that warmed our hearts in these dark times.
Since the massacre of October 7th and the war it started, the plaza of Beit Ariela (Tel Aviv's central library) has become the national focal point of the headquarters of the families of those kidnapped and held captive by the terrorist organization "Hamas".
We have designated a space within the library itself for families of the abductees, which they use for resting, eating, meeting with the media or representatives of the leadership, and sometimes even for sleeping.
Public libraries in Israel do not usually accept private donations, but if there are people among your library's readers who are interested in donating to the families' campaign for the return of their loved ones from captivity, the details are:
You can donate through your bank account directly on the online donation form above (online ACH).
However, you're welcome to make a wire transfer to the bank info below. Should you chose a wire, be sure to mark in the "notes" of the wire hostages and missing families forum. You can also email email@example.com to let them know of your donation to our foundation.
Donations in Euro should be sent by SEPA wire transfer to Fonds de Dotation (SIREN: 889613709):
Account owner: Fonds de Dotation IG
Donors will receive a CERFA tax-receipt.
Uri Ellis, PhD
Director, The Department of Libraries, Tel-Aviv