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An Archive of Israeli Literary Treasures

An Archive of Israeli Literary Treasures

January 21, 2013

Israel Studies, Culture & Jewish Thought

D3_archives_storyIt is well known that Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is home to the archives of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister.

But, did you know that the University is also home to the archives of the “First Israelis”?

This term refers to the writers, poets and playwrights who began to compose their work after the establishment of the Jewish state, and whose oeuvre reflects the historical and cultural currents of those times.

The group includes renowned Israeli writer and BGU professor Amos Oz, Holocaust writer Aharon Appelfeld, poet Yehuda Amichai, among others.

The Hebrew Literature Archives are part of Heksherim, the Research Institute for Jewish and Israeli Literature and Culture on BGU’s Marcus Family Campus in Beer-Sheva.

Each writer has his or her own room or shares a space with another writer in the archive. Their papers are carefully filed away in neatly shelved cardboard boxes.

The archives of a writer or a poet can be full of things that the writers “are done with,” letters and files that they’ll never look at again, says Ilan Bar-David, Heksherim’s head archivist.

Yet for BGU students and researchers, the work at the archives is that of ongoing discovery, as they hole up in the individual and shared rooms of the writers poring over the papers, making sense of the scribbled notes and fading letters.

“It can be kind of an obsession,” says Bar-David.