By: TPS Staff
The year 2021 saw a massive increase in Arab users of the National Library of Israel’s (NLI) website and online resources across the Arab world, within Israel and globally, the NLI revealed Monday.
Compared to the previous year, 2021 saw a 125% increase in visits to the NLI’s Arabic-language website, now surpassing two million visits from some 1.5 million users worldwide.
Within the State of Israel, 2021 saw a 250% increase in visits to the NLI’s Arabic website. That figure now exceeds 900,000 visits from more than 620,000 users, 220% more than in the previous year.
The tri-lingual (Hebrew-Arabic-English) NLI website registered approximately 10 million total visits in 2021.
Some 650,000 users from across the Arab world visited the NLI’s Arabic and English websites, an increase of 40% compared to 2020. The most popular locales across the region were the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Algeria. A majority of users in the Arab world were between the ages of 25 and 44. About 60% of all users in the Arab world were male.
The 130-year-old National Library of Israel is currently in the midst of a transformative renewal process aimed at engaging broader and more diverse audiences both domestically and internationally.
Alongside its world-leading collections of Judaica and Israeliana, the NLI’s Islam and Middle East Collection is one of the region’s leading of its kind. The collection contains thousands of manuscripts and rare books in Arabic, Persian and Turkish dating from the ninth to the 20th centuries, and serves as a leading research collection for scholars studying a wide range of topics related to Islamic and Middle Eastern cultures.
Many of these treasures are now going online. NLI has recently opened digital access to hundreds of thousands of pages of historic Arabic press from Ottoman and British-Mandatory Palestine, launched an Arabic Facebook page and online publication, as well as a range of educational and general interest resources in Arabic.
Last year, a major initiative was launched to open digital access to 2,500 rare Islamic manuscripts and books from the collection, a project made possible with the support of Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.
“While these resources are primarily developed as part of the NLI’s mission to serve all of Israel’s citizens, it has become increasingly clear in recent years that users across the Arab world and beyond are interested in actively engaging with the Library’s online offerings and diverse collections,” the NLI stated.
Last year, the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates and the NLI signed a historic memorandum of understanding amid increased interest in regional collaboration in the wake of the Abraham Accords.
Yaron Deutscher, Head of Digital at NLI, stated that “technology allows culture and the written word to cross boundaries and reach new places previously inaccessible. The fact that so many people from across the Arab world are expressing such a high level of interest in the cultural treasures freely available via the National Library of Israel’s website shows just how relevant these things are, even for the younger generation living in our region.”