250,000 pages of Palestinian history digitized and accessible for all

Hundreds of photographs have been found of the old city of Jerusalem, which are an important form of documentation and can play a role in conservation efforts. (SPA)
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Updated 08 July 2020

250,000 pages of Palestinian history digitized and accessible for all

  • King Abdul Aziz Public Library is striving to preserve Arab and Islamic heritage

JEDDAH/RIYADH: The largest documented archive of Jerusalem’s history in the Arab Union Catalog is now available through the work led by the King Abdul Aziz Public Library (KAPL).

In cooperation with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), KAPL has helped to gather 820 records of the Jerusalem Shariah Court, each record containing between 150 to 500 pages, to form the database of the Palestinian libraries in the Arab Union Catalog.

The archive, which amounts to more than 250,000 pages in books, maps and manuscripts, covers Jerusalem’s history since 1528 and is available at the UNRWA Libraries Network.

KAPL, through the Arab Union Catalog, provided the technical capabilities to the information specialists of the education program, setting up the network to benefit libraries and Arab and Islamic culture.

Arab and Islamic heritage are the main pillars of KAPL’s work. On Palestine, the library has a large database of books, documents and maps. It has published a large illustrated volume entitled “Al-Aqsa,” which presents holy sites, heritage sites and the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosques. It also includes a large collection of rare documents and photographs.

Historical images of societies are part of their heritage and the global community. They tell of a people’s story and achievements, their suffering and loss, and serve as a vital element of communal identity.

Speaking about the importance of heritage conservation, Majed Al-Ahdal, an avid supporter of documenting antiquities, told Arab News that “documentation, in principle, is a manifestation of humanity and civilization; it’s a human condition that expresses the life of the individual and his or her deep desire for immortality.”

Today, few would disagree with the importance of documentation as a means of preserving the physical and intangible heritage. Through its various cultural projects, KAPL has documented Arab intellectual creativity, amassing a collection of more than 3 million books, journals, documents, manuscripts and rare photographs.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Through its various projects, KAPL has documented Arab intellectual creativity, amassing a collection of more than 3 million books, journals, documents, manuscripts and rare photographs.

• On Palestine, the library has a large database of books, documents and maps.

The digitizing of the archives will preserve and enrich Arab and Islamic culture and its sources.

“Documentation today is a means of surviving the historical and identity erosion of any one human being,” said Al-Ahdal.

Hundreds of photographs have been found of the old city of Jerusalem, which are an important form of documentation and can play a role in conservation efforts.

“It is a powerful tool on which many engineering and artistic applications can be built. It is one of the most important ways in which physical heritage can be remodeled in the event of damage or destruction caused by natural disasters or the devastation caused by human conflict, with the assistance of 3D modeling software and other engineering applications.”

He said that photography can offer a reliable record of buildings, decorations, people’s costumes, society’s customs, and colors that can be difficult to describe and document in other ways.

“Promoting historical written and oral blogs with visual documents helps to get more precise view of our Arab and Islamic history.”

In 2009, the UNRWA archive was inscribed by UNESCO in the Memory of the World Register for collecting a rich audiovisual archive of film and photography that contains more than 10,000 prints, 85,000 slides and more than 70 films on the life and history of the Palestinian people.


Seth Rogen’s Israel comments highlight fraught diaspora ties

Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a fire after an Israeli airstrike, on a floor in a building that also houses international media offices in Gaza City. (Reuters/File)
Updated 08 August 2020

Seth Rogen’s Israel comments highlight fraught diaspora ties

  • Jewish comedians’ conversation on Israel spark an uproar

TEL AVIV: It began as a lighthearted conversation between two Jewish comedians, riffing on a podcast about the idiosyncrasies of their shared heritage. But after talk turned to Israel, it didn’t take long for Marc Maron and Seth Rogen to spark an uproar.

Their comments about Israel — especially Rogen saying the country “doesn’t make sense” — infuriated many Israel supporters and highlighted the country’s tenuous relationship with young, progressive Jewish critics in the diaspora.
Israel has long benefited from financial and political support from American Jews. But in recent years the country has faced a groundswell of opposition from young progressives, disillusioned by Israel’s aggressive West Bank settlement building, its perceived exclusion of liberal streams of Judaism and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cosy relationship with President Donald Trump.
“What Seth Rogen said is par for the course among our generation and the Israeli government has to wake up and see that their actions have consequences,” said Yonah Lieberman, spokesman for If Not Now, an American Jewish organization opposed to Israel’s entrenched occupation of the West Bank.
Rogen’s remarks follow a dramatic shift by an influential Jewish American commentator who recently endorsed the idea of a democratic entity of Jews and Palestinians living with equal rights on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Peter Beinart’s argument that a two-state solution — Israel and Palestine — is no longer possible sent shock waves through the Jewish establishment and Washington policymaking circles.
For many Jews, Israel is an integral part of their identity, on religious grounds or as an insurance policy in the wake of the Holocaust and in a modern age of resurgent anti-Semitism. But polls have shown that while most American Jews identify with Israel and feel a connection to the country, that support has waned over recent years, especially among millennials.
Some have even embraced the Palestinian-led movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel to protest what it says is Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Israel accuses the movement of waging a campaign to delegitimize its very existence.

SPEEDREAD

Their comments about Israel — especially Rogen saying the country ‘doesn’t make sense’ — highlighted the country’s tenuous relationship with young, progressive Jewish critics in the diaspora.

In the podcast, Rogen, who appeared in such smash comedies as “Superbad” and “Knocked Up,” talked about attending Jewish schools and Jewish summer camp while growing up in Vancouver. He said his parents met on an Israeli kibbutz.
As they continued to chat, Rogen appeared to question why Israel was established.
“You don’t keep all your Jews in one basket. I don’t understand why they did that. It makes no sense whatsoever,” Rogen said. “You don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place especially when that place has proven to be pretty volatile. I’m trying to keep all these things safe. I’m going to put them in my blender and hope that that’s the best place to, that’ll do it.”
Rogen then said he was “fed a huge amount of lies” about Israel during his youth. “They never tell you that ‘oh, by the way, there were people there.’ They make it seem like, ‘the (expletive) door’s open.’”
Maron and Rogen both joked about how frightened they were about the responses they would receive from Israel’s defenders. Their concerns were justified.
Rogen’s comments immediately lit up “Jewish Twitter.” They unleashed a flurry of critical op-eds in Jewish and Israeli media. And they prompted Rogen to call Isaac Herzog, the head of the Jewish Agency, a major nonprofit that works to foster relations between Israel and the Jewish world.
In a Facebook post, Herzog said he and Rogen had a frank and open conversation. He said Rogen “was misunderstood and apologized” for his comments.
“I told him that many Israelis and Jews around the world were personally hurt by his statement, which implies the denial of Israel’s right to exist,” Herzog wrote.
In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, Rogen said he called Herzog at the urging of his mother and he denied apologizing. He said the comments were made in jest and misconstrued.
“I don’t want Jews to think that I don’t think Israel should exist. And I understand how they could have been led to think that,” he said.
Rogen also said he is a “proud Jew.” He said his criticism was aimed at the education he received, and he believed he could have been given a deeper picture of a “complex” situation.
Ironically, Rogen was on the podcast to promote his new movie, “An American Pickle,” about a Jewish immigrant to the US at the start of the 20th century who falls into a vat of pickle brine and emerges 100 years later. He called the project a “very Jewish film.”
Lieberman, from If Not Now, said the uproar shows “how much the conversation has changed” about Israel among American Jews.
Shmuel Rosner, a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, said Israel should not be expected to change its “security and foreign policies” based on growing estrangement from Jews overseas.
But he said it can take realistic steps to close the gap, such as establishing a pluralistic prayer site at the Western Wall, long a sticking point between Israel’s Orthodox establishment and more liberal Jews in the US
“It’s a challenge for Israel. It’s inconvenient. We want everyone to love us, especially other Jews,” he said. “Israel can do certain things to make it somewhat better.”