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New National Library of Israel Shines as Beacon of Hope from Israel to the USA

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Despite the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack and ongoing fighting, the newly renovated National Library of Israel (NLI)) officially opened on Oct. 29 in Jerusalem.

While operating on a limited basis in the Holy Land, a world away in Virginia Beach, Virginia, treasures from the library are on exhibit showcasing the country's humanity in the face of inhumanity. 

NLI USA CEO Adina Kanefield gave CBN News a tour of the exhibit gallery at the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus, featuring 18 highlights from the library's collections.

One of Kanefield's favorite pieces in the exhibit includes a note from Hungarian Jewish poet Hannah Szenes, who was executed for helping Jews escape the Holocaust.

"She says, 'My dear beloved mother, I have no words,'" read Kanefield. "'All I can say to you is a million thanks. Forgive me if you can. You alone will understand why there is no need for words. With endless love your daughter.'"

Local leader and NLI board member Art Sandler hosted the community event and explained why the display came to Virginia Beach.

"When I started learning about the library, I just couldn't believe what was there," Sandler told CBN News. "I live here so I wanted my friends and family, my community to see it."

Sandler said he hopes the exhibit can raise awareness and support for Israel in the face of growing antisemitism in the U.S. 

"Apart from standing with Israel, there's this issue of Jew-hatred that's really come to the surface and it's terrible. So, we have to do everything we can to combat that on the home front," he explained. 

That includes a focus on what's happening on college campuses according to David Makovsky of the Washington Institute and president of the library's U.S. affiliate.

"A lot of these people are chanting things, 'from the river to the sea,'" said Makovsky. "They don't know what river. They don't know what sea. So, what is the Jordan River? What is the Mediterranean Sea? To say river to the sea sounds nice, but you're talking about eliminating one whole people."

He added, "So, I think the library is going to be there to, not to get political, but to bring people together around ideas of knowledge."

Makovsky also pointed out how the library's old building in Israel is being used as a classroom during the war.

"The library's trying to fill the gap and teach kids who are out of their own element," said Makovsky. "They're not in their schools and they've been displaced. And the library's trying to fill that gap and have special programming for kids, so they don't miss the regular experience of being a kid and going to school," he explained. 

Makovsky, who also spoke on the current fighting between Israel and Hamas, also sees the library, which features an Islamic collection, as a bridge across cultural lines.

"We might disagree politically," he said. "We might disagree religiously, but we can discuss books. We can discuss big ideas, texts. We can use culture as a way to bring people together. And digitization amplifies this exponentially."

Many visitors came away inspired after taking in the Jewish history on display in Virginia Beach.

"The pain of seeing what's happening in the beloved land of Israel, the terrifying ordeal is a page taken from the Holocaust what they did to us," said Rabbi Israel Zoberman of Temple Lev Tikvah Heart of Hope in Virginia Beach. "It is refreshing in a way to be reminded of how much we have given to the world."

Local resident Cory Hill said, "It's so important to have this library open now and show the world that we're still existing, that we still have hope."

"I think the land of Israel has such a rich history in the region for not just Jews but also for Arabs and so many other Christians," said Hunter Thomas. "So many people that have made that land home over hundreds and hundreds of years - thousands of years. And that history is what the library is trying to protect, to promote, to keep."

"It's so important especially right now when there's so much hatred and terror and all of those sorts of things happening in the world, things that can divide us," Thomas continued, "to remember the rich history and humanity and art and culture that makes the land of Israel, the country of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people and the land, of so many other people, is so important."  

Meanwhile, churches and organizations across the U.S. are encouraged to bring the treasures of the National Library of Israel to their community. Items from the library's collections are available online with an option to print for mounting.   

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About The Author

Charlene Aaron

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter, news anchor, co-host of The 700 Club, co-host of 700 Club Interactive, and co-host of The Prayerlink on the CBN News Channel. She covers various social issues, such as abortion, gender identity, race relations, and more. Before joining CBN News in 2003, she was a personal letter writer for Dr. Pat Robertson. Charlene attended Old Dominion University and Elizabeth City State University. She is an ordained minister and pastor’s wife. She lives in Smithfield, VA, with her husband.