Delegation begins! A visit to Orient House

This morning we met at the Kenyon Institute in Jerusalem to get the Librarians and Archivists to Palestine delegation under way! After introductions and orientation, we were met by Hussein Gheith, Chief Librarian for the Kenyon Institute, and Qasem Abu Harb, Director of the Archive Center at the Arab Studies Society-Jerusalem. We spent the next several hours on a walking tour of Jerusalem’s old city during which we visited and met with representatives of several family libraries.

One of the locations we visited 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.

Orient House

Hussein Ghaith (Abu Hani), a former librarian at Orient House in front of his old haunt. We couldn’t have asked for a more joyful and brilliant guide through Jerusalem’s treasure-trove of libraries.

Ottoman-era law used to justify seizure and closure of Orient House as posted on the gate.

A peek through the windows reveals a library looted and in severe disrepair.

For more on the Orient House, see this short piece in the Jerusalem Quarterly. 

After the walking tour we headed to Ramallah for a delicious dinner and a good night’s sleep before we head to Nablus tomorrow morning!

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  1. Pingback: ‘Librarians 2 Palestine’ Group Blogging on Palestinians’ Access to Books, Archives, More « Arabic Literature (in English)

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