At National Library in Jerusalem, a chair and a book for each hostage

Installation at new building housing archive reflects personality, hobbies, or family connections of each captive held by Hamas in Gaza Strip

An installation consisting of chairs with books and portraits of Israeli hostages in Gaza seen at the new building of the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, November 21, 2023. (Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)
An installation consisting of chairs with books and portraits of Israeli hostages in Gaza seen at the new building of the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, November 21, 2023. (Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

Two Hebrew copies of Eric Hill’s book “Where’s Spot?” stand on tiny children’s chairs at Israel’s newly opened National Library, alongside pictures of three-year-old Israeli twins taken hostage by Hamas.

An installation featuring one chair for each of the hundreds of hostages abducted by Hamas from Israel and taken to the Gaza Strip has been installed in the central book well in the library’s modernist new home, seven years in the building.

On each chair is a hostage’s portrait, along with a book that “reflects his personality, his hobbies, his connection to his family or occupation,” said National Library of Israel director Oren Weinberg.

Home to more than five million books and periodicals and thousands of rare texts, the new facility across from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem opened last month as the country was thrust into a war against the Palestinian terror group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Millions of books in its collection have been stored in robotically managed subterranean stacks that plunge deep beneath the brightly illuminated book well at the building’s core.

The outbreak of war on October 7 scuppered a week of festivities planned for the inauguration, Weinberg said.

“But this was maybe the least of our problems considering everything around us,” Weinberg told AFP.

A view of the new building of the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, November 21, 2023. (Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

War erupted when Hamas led 3,000 terrorists in a cross-border attack from the Gaza Strip that killed at least 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians. Entire families were slaughtered in their homes and acts of horrific brutality and around 240 others were taken hostage, including the elderly and infants, according to Israeli officials. The attack came under the cover of thousands of Gazan rockets fired all over Israel, including toward the capital.

Israel responded by launching a military campaign to destroy Hamas and remove it from power in Gaza, while also securing the release of the hostages.

When sirens sounded in Jerusalem during the October 7 attacks, conservators rushed to the library to move a collection of rare manuscripts on display for the inauguration to vaults located five stories underground, said Rachel Neiman, a library spokeswoman.

The library has also taken on digital documentation of the attacks, including survivor testimonies, images and videos, and interviews with families of the hostages, she said.

“It’s one thing to be able to collect the testimonies,” she said. “It’s another thing to be able to organize them and preserve them and have them ready for historians in the future.”

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