One of the oldest libraries in Jerusalem has now recently been restored and is on its way to becoming a full functioning sanctuary for people to use. The old Palestinian library restored to encourage research was founded in 1900 and is called Khalidi library. In Arabic it is known as the Al-Maktaba Al-Khalidiyya. It holds one of the worlds largest private arabic manuscript and literature. The oldest text is about 1000 years old, but with that there are over 200 sacred Islamic texts that are beautifully decorated and kept safe all these years later. There are also various printed books mostly from the 19th century but there are some historical family texts that date all the way back to the 18th century. Its printed collection contains around 5,500 volumes. This bespoke setting is truly a gem for the eyes.
At the turn of the 20th century one of the descendants of the library’s owners Hajj Raghib Al-Khalidi realized that he needed to act fast to preserve his family’s research, books, and manuscript that they held so dear to them. Khalidis descendants have carried out major restoration of many of the library’s resources that they have kept and preserved for various scholars worldwide to access. The Mamluk- era building was built in 1389, and has passed the test of time. It has outlasted several rulers like the Umayyad Caliphate, the Ottomon Empire, and even the British Mandate, standing strong even under the Israeli occupation. For many Palestiniains the library is a living structure of their culture, and who they are. The work of their time as many like to refer to it as. It is purely a library that holds so much knowledge, information that can have individual travel back to the 10th and 11th century giving proof that the Jerusalemites and Palestinians have been the center of culture and civilization.
At the end of the 1967 war, matters between Palestinians and the Israeli forces became even more complicated and it was almost positive that the library that was such a positive structure for many Palestinians would be lost even though it was legally registered as an family endowment, said Raja Khalidi to Arab news. He is another descendant of the Khalidi family. In 1989, one of the descendants from the Khalidi family named Walid incorporated Friends of the Khalidi Library (FKL) in the US to ask for support and funds to protect the historical site. Donations came in very quickly from various members of the family, the Ford Foundation, UNESCO, the Dutch government and the Arab Economic and Social Fund in Kuwait. With all these funds that came in they were not only able to take off Israeli encroachment but also be able to completely renovate and furnish the library from the inside and out and better preserve the valuable belongings held inside.
With the help of numerous individuals every document, book and manuscript in the Palestinian library restored has been scanned and catalogued and safely put on the internet under the library’s name. Raja has said that this was work that took them a few years to do but in the end it was all worth it and they are excited that now the original manuscripts and work are properly saved and protected. They are excited to see how researchers will use this content to further their studies as it is now online for everyone to view.
It is important to highlight how the restoration of this Palestinian library restored has brought a lot of positive light and hope for the Palestinias living in the city, but also for the world to see. The stories and texts that are kept safe behind the walls of the monumental structure sheds a light on the history of Palestinian people in Jerusalem, as well exploring the proud Arab presence in the region. The goal of this library is to not only preserve a piece of heritage but to further spread research. At the end of the day knowledge is power, and it is important for the coming younger generation to understand the importance of their roots and what better place to start than to be able to pick a book and learn about it. Read about text that was first hand written from people of that time. Like an ongoing cycle that never ends, the descendants of the Khalidi family hope to continue to spread light about the library and only hope that more brilliant minds share their research and work for the generations to come.
by Mariam Asif – YLT Staff