A Treasury of Words:
A Selection from the Collections of the National Library of Israel
The “A Treasury of Words” exhibition invites you to embark on a fascinating journey through space and time, among cultural artifacts that are the spiritual treasures of the Jewish People and the State of Israel. These items are preserved in the collections of the National Library of Israel. This is a journey of the emotions, the senses, and the intellect, with text playing the starring role – whether written, printed, recorded, or displayed digitally through letters, words, and meaning. This exhibition seeks to demonstrate how text has the power to change the world; to formulate ideas and push them forward; to define a place, community, and nation; and sometimes even to create them and express the spirit and talent of thinkers, writers, and poets.
Although the exhibition is spread throughout the William Davidson Permanent Exhibition Gallery as one continuous whole entity without separating partitions, it presents several distinct topics including: foundational texts from the bookcases of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity; writings about actual places and sites as well as communities that are associated with these places; Passover Haggadot from both past and present; the origin stories of the Hebrew and Arabic alphabets and the story of how their written form developed over the generations, as well as letters and drafts revealing a small portion of what is kept in individual private archives preserved at the Library.
When you approach the display cases in the exhibition, you'll get an up-close look at original, unique items that have shaped our history and culture. Among these are a manuscript written by Maimonides himself, the first-ever printed Talmud from Venice, and a rare copy of the Quran from the 9thcentury; you can draw inspiration from works of literature and thought in the authentic handwriting of S. Y. Agnon, Naomi Shemer, David Grossman, Hannah Senesh, and other well-known thinkers who created works in Hebrew, Arabic, and other languages; and you can take in the magic of incantation bowls used for exorcism, on the backs of which Babylonian sorcerers and magicians wrote threatening oaths in Hebrew fifteen hundred years ago.
These original items, which are so precious and important and have come to us from both the distant and recent past, are written in ink on parchment, paper, and clay and tend to decay under certain conditions of light, humidity, and climate. In order to protect them, they are kept in specially designed display cases under low light. Some of them will be replaced every few months, according to a predetermined rotation plan to minimize any damage.
Alongside these delicate items are others that can withstand the effects of time and the environment, such as a digital screen displaying content from the National Library’s vast historical press collections, or unique digital books that are brought to life by the touch of a finger. There is also an audio corner where visitors can sit back in comfortable seats and listen to works and poems from the collections of the National Sound Archive.
These cultural treasures are all accompanied by browsing screens that allow viewers to see enlarged details from inside the displays.
On the exhibition’s digital website, you can find a selection of the most fascinating items from the exhibition, learn the stories behind them, and understand why they are so important to us.