From June 22 until July 5, a group of librarians, archivists, and other library workers is traveling around Palestine and Israel in order to connect with colleagues, bear witness, share skills, and seek out possibilities for joint work:
A statement from the “Librarians 2 Palestine” (L2P) website says that, “Our trip will shed light on how Palestinian voices and information about Palestine reach us (or do not) and how Palestinians access (or cannot access) information.”
The group has thus far blogged and tweeted from more than a half-dozen cities. The L2P group began its meetings and tours in Jerusalem, and one of the first locations they visted was the Orient House:
“which has been owned by the Arab Studies Society since 1983. However, the library has been closed since 2001, when significant portions of the archival collections were confiscated (including photo and newspaper collections) by the Israeli government. The library is closed using an Ottoman era law, which is renewed every six months and posted on the front door of the building (see photo). The Orient House librarians and archivists still do not know the extent of the damage to the collections or what materials remain in the building.”
On their first full day in Jerusalem, they blogged about going to visit “a half dozen libraries desperately trying to preserve irreplaceable manuscripts…. This is a hand-scripted, illuminated, Ottoman Empire-era Quran held and maintained in the Khalidi Library in the Old City, Jerusalem.”
After Nablus, they visited the Birzeit University collections, where, they said, “librarians…were instrumental in creating the LoC call number for the Intifada: DS128.14”. They group also spent time at the Al-Bireh Public library, where they held a discussion on children’s literature with the Tamer Institute.
They briefly blogged about their experience talking with Salim El-Bast at the El-Bireh library, and added on Twitter about the Birzeit University system: “Challenges for BZU libraries: acquiring new books and journal subscriptions, finding experienced Arabic language cataloguers.” They added:
They group next went to Tel Aviv, to meet with Zochrot, a group trying to raise awareness about the Nakba, and later to Saffourieh, the village of poet Taha Muhammad Ali’s village, extensively discussed in Adina Hoffman’s biography of the poet My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century.
The group tweeted that:
Also, “The librarians here [in Haifa] agree most kids’ books in Arabic in Israel are low quality. Better ones are poorly marketed, so no one knows about them.”
The group felt that, “The discrimination within Israel is clear. Libraries serving Palestinian towns either don’t exist or are poorly funded and staffed.” while adding that, “A librarian argues the problem is not acquiring books – it’s awakening Palestinians’ interest in their culture amid such discrimination.”
After that, the group went to Lyd, where they reported that the school library was “replaced with a police station”. Yesterday, they visited “Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, as well as Lajee, a hub of popular education in the camp.”
After Bethelem, they had a very emotional tour of Hebron — it’s hard to imagine even a stone not being moved by a tour of the old city.
The group will continue its meetings and touring through July 5.
Librarians, library workers, & archivists to follow:
The main blog is librarians2palestine.wordpress.com.
Josh MacPhee & Molly Fair are also blogging about the experience at Just Seeds.
The L2Pers also note on their website that, “In all our travels, we will respect the Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and will not partner with any organization that violates this call.”