Ending the year on a note of hope and love

A volunteer reads to a boy at the Lewinsky Park library.

ARTISTS OFFER HOPE TO BELEAGUERED TEL AVIV LIBRARY
This year ends with a little hope, courtesy of Tel Aviv street artist Know Hope and about two dozen of his artist friends. They all donated works for a sale that would benefit a tiny, but crucial, library in southern Tel Aviv’s Lewinsky Park. The library, with books in 16 languages, serves both children and adults of the country’s large population of labor migrants.

“It’s a library that creates contact between people,” volunteer Alma Igra said when I visited early last year, soon after the library opened. Both children and adults are asked to rate the books they read, and colored stickers are attached to the covers to indicate the ratings.

“We arrange books by stickers, that is, by ratings, even if it mixes up the languages, so you leave your experience for the next person,” Igra explained.

The library was designed and planned by architect and social activist Yoav Meiri. It consists of two cases on a small brick plaza. The larger case, for adults, has lift-up metal grates that create a sun shade. The smaller case, for children, has drop-down, wood-lined doors that create a floor on which children can sit and read.

The day I visited, two children were helping to mop the brick plaza. As soon as the cases were opened, they eagerly chose books and sat down to read. Adults, too, came by to borrow books; one man said he’d come from Jerusalem to borrow a book in Nepalese.

“The Nepalese read a lot,” said Igra, a literature major. Filipinos also rank high among the book borrowers, another volunteer said.

The library was founded by ARTEAM, a group of artists committed to helping meet the needs of the neighborhood’s diverse communities. The founders say the library is much more than a place to borrow books; it also serves as a community center and a cultural center and that some 30 to 40 children come to the library daily.

It is run mostly by volunteers and has an annual budget of only about $80,000, but now there is no money even to pay the director or to cover insurance costs, according to the daily Ha’aretz. Tel Aviv Municipality has allocated a small sum from its libraries budget, but that will cover only a part of the expenses and has not yet been received, Ha’aretz reported.

That is why Know Hope’s initiative was so welcome, although it, too, is only a partial solution. Keeping the library open in the coming year would be a fitting partial fulfillment of the vision of the 19th century Russian-Jewish Hebrew writer Elhanan Leib Lewinsky, for whom the park containing the library is named. His 1892 book Voyage to the Land of Israel in the Year 5800 [2040] was a utopian tale of a visit to a perfect future Jewish state.

To read more about the library and to donate, visit www.thegardenlibrary.org.

LOVE IN THE TIME OF HOOKAHS
Archaeologists digging in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City have discovered a mouthpiece of a clay pipe dating to the Ottoman period (16th to 19th centuries CE). The mouthpiece has an Arabic inscription that translates approximately as “Love is the language of lovers.”

According to Shahar Puni of the Israel Antiquities Authority, under whose auspices the dig was conducted, clay pipes of this kind and hookahs were very common in the Ottoman period and were used by both men and women for smoking tobacco or hashish. Pipes were also used as jewelry that could be worn on a garment.

“This pipe was probably given as a gift to a lover,” Puni said.

Text and photo copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht, unless otherwise indicated. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.

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2 Responses to “Ending the year on a note of hope and love”

  1. David Says:

    “…His 1892 book Voyage to the Land of Israel in the Year 5800 [2040]…”

    and rapidly approaching…

    Happy New Year, to you and Shraga and your family

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