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66th IFLA Council and General

Jerusalem, Israel, 13-18 August


Code Number: 090-123-E
Division Number: IV
Professional Group: Bibliography
Joint Meeting with: -
Meeting Number: 123
Simultaneous Interpretation:   No  

Bibliographic projects and tools in Israel

Rochelle Kedar
Department of Information Science
Bar Ilan University
Ramat Gan, Israel


I. Background

When surveying the various bibliographic projects in Israel, one very soon realizes that many of these projects are influenced by circumstances of history and geography. The Jews are an ancient people that have created and developed an immense body of literature through three millennia. The foundations of this literature were laid in the ancient Land of Israel - the Bible, the Mishna, the Jerusalem Talmud - and were carried with the Jews into exile. While many nations and peoples in the last several centuries have established communities around the world, the Jewish Diaspora is probably the most far-flung and in many parts of the world there exist Jewish communities that are 2000 years old. The literature created by Jews has taken many forms: religious and secular, scientific and literary. It has been written in a multitude of languages - either the locally spoken language or in one of the several Judeo languages. Beyond the genre, language or content of literature created by Jews, much of this literature reflects the culture and the social situation of the Jews in their respective communities and their contribution to the general society in which they lived. In view of all this it is not surprising that many of the major bibliographic projects in Israel are characterized by the common objective of the coverage of materials from the modern State of Israel, as well as from the Jewish Diaspora. The aim of this lecture is to present several of the most prominent bibliographic tools and projects current in Israel, as well as a few specialized and fascinating, though less well known, projects.

II. Bibliographic Tools in the State of Israel: Union Catalogs

A fairly unique situation exists in Israel, in that all of the university libraries (which hold the largest collections in Israel), as well as most of the smaller college libraries, two of the larger public libraries (Tel-Aviv and Netanya) and several special libraries use the same computerized catalog system, ALEPH. This situation facilitated the inclusion of all of these institutions into the Israel Inter-University Library Network (IUCC) (http://libnet.ac.il), allowing users to switch easily from one institution's OPAC to another. It also expedited the development of online bibliographic tools, such as the Israel Union Catalog (ULI) and the Israel Union List of Serials (ULS).

Developed in 1991, the purpose of the Israel Union Catalog (ULI) is to provide a search tool that would eliminate the need of separately searching the online catalogs of libraries participating in the Israel Inter-University Library Network (Lazinger, 1994). The ULI contains over 4 million abbreviated bibliographic records for all items held by the participating libraries (with the exception of offprints or photocopied articles), each record containing the list of holding institutions. When accessed by means of a Web browser, the records contain links to the full bibliographic record in the catalogs of the holding institutions (http://libnet.ac.il/~libnet/uli/uliinfo.htm).

The Israel Union List of Serials (ULS) lists close to 100,000 different serial titles, in all subject areas and in all languages, held in over 170 academic, public and special libraries and collections. Listings are based on information submitted by participating libraries, which are edited and then added to the database by the ULS staff based at the Jewish National and University Library. The ULS is accessible via the Israel Inter-University Library Network by means of a Web browser or through a Telnet connection (http://libnet.ac.il/~libnet/uls/ulsinfo.htm).

III. Major Bibliographic Projects in the State of Israel

The National Jewish Bibliography Kiryat Sefer

Kiryat Sefer is the national Israeli and Jewish bibliography and is published quarterly in Hebrew, first appearing in 1924. Kiryat Sefer was founded by Professor Hugo Bergmann, the first director of the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. It is published in print form and is also available on ALEPH, the Israeli academic library network via Telnet (from volume 64, 1990). Kiryat Sefer is compiled and published by the Jewish National and University Library and covers the following materials:

  • Books printed in the State of Israel in all languages and from all local ethnic/religious cultures. The recording of these materials is based on books that have been turned over to the library for legal deposit. Approximately 6000 books per year are now published in Israel (not including materials from government sources).
  • Books on the subjects of the Jews, Judaism, the Land of Israel and books on the Bible. Information on these materials is actively sought and collected from the whole world, regardless of source country or language.
  • Books printed in languages using the Hebrew alphabet (Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Jewish-Arabic, etc.), from the world over and in all subject areas.
  • Books on general subjects that include material on Jews and Judaica. Since Jewish history covers over three thousand years and there are Jewish communities in almost every country, it is obviously impossible to cover every item mentioning Jews or Judaica that is printed. Therefore, Kiryat Sefer's policy is to collect only those books that at least one fifth of their content is directly on one of the above topics.
  • From 1948 until 1974, a selection of articles in the field of Judaic Studies were also covered. This is now covered by the Index of Articles on Jewish Studies (RAMBI).
Bibliographic citation is based, in a large part, on the information contained in the catalogs of the Jewish National and University Library, which catalogs in accordance with the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules. In the past, each citation was extensively annotated and included a full description of the contents and basic premise of each book, as well as references to previous editions and translations. Additionally, every volume of Kiryat Sefer included a number of scholarly articles in the fields of bibliography, the history of the Hebrew Book, the publication of Hebrew manuscripts and literary research and criticism. In an effort to deal with the mounting backlog of books to be included, this format has now changed, with annotated citations only for those items whose contents are not clear from the title of the work. References to previous editions and translations have been curtailed and scholarly articles now appear in a separate publication. Kiryat Sefer continues to appear in print and its database (KSF) is accessible through the Israel Inter-University Library Network via Telnet.

Retrospective Bibliography: Bibliography of the Hebrew Book, 1473-1960

The historical and geographical situation of the Jews described in the first section of this survey, has, in the main, caused the dispersion of bibliographic information in the field of Jews and Judaica among several publications. The need for a comprehensive, retrospective bibliographic tool that would cover the considerable body of Judaic and Hebraic literature published since the invention of the printing press became apparent. This significant project, Bibliography of the Hebrew Book, 1473-1960, was conceived in 1954 by Dr. Israel Mehlmann. The project commenced in 1959, under the patronage the Jewish National and University Library and was headed by Prof. Gershom Scholem, with the stated aim of creating a database of information on the Hebrew Book, including an authority file of all authors, printers, publishers and place names, thereby constituting a definitive bibliographic tool for researchers. Entries in the card catalog of the project were based for the most part on information from the catalog of the Jewish National and University Library, as well as from smaller, specialized collections in Israel. Entries were created only after a team of project editors examined the books (Marbach, 1996, p.227). Hebrew collections in foreign libraries were also utilized, such as the British Library and the New York Public Library. The bibliographic database of over 80,000 books was published in 1994 on CD-ROM with sophisticated search capabilities. However, this edition did not include most of the entries of the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Taf, under which would appear some of the most important material: Tanach (Bible), Tefillot (Liturgy) and Talmud. Since 1994 The Institute of Hebrew Bibliography has continued the work on this project, and both Tanach (Bible) and Tefillot (Liturgical works) are nearing completion. The project is now concentrating on books published in various Jewish dialects: the bibliography of works in Ladino will be completed this year and work has commenced on the bibliography of works in Judeo-Arabic. Since 1995 work is carried out using the ALEPH computer system, which has facilitated the updating of the database and 15,000 new entries have been added since 1995. Project managers are now deliberating whether to publish the whole database on CD-ROM or make it available online. Sections of the database will also be published in book form, such as the section on Haggadah (the liturgy for the eve of the Passover holiday) published in 1997 (The Haggadah Thesaurus). Also planned for book-form are the sections on the Bible and Jewish Liturgical Works. The director of the project since 1991 is Mr. Yitzhak Yudlov.

The Index to Hebrew Periodicals

The Index to Hebrew Periodicals (IHP), a project of Haifa University, was initiated 1976 (pilot project), the first volume appearing in print in 1977, originally covering 22 Israeli periodicals in Hebrew. As of April, 2000, the computerized database contains more than 570,000 records from over 500 periodicals. The current IHP database is an amalgamation of four indexing projects:

  1. The Index to Hebrew Periodicals indexes major Hebrew periodicals. Weeklies and newsletters are not covered, nor are letters to the editor, product information, etc., indexed. Approximately 15,000 articles are indexed per year from about 275 scholarly, professional and popular journals, covering a very wide range of topics. This is evidenced by the IHP thesaurus, developed by the Haifa University staff involved in the IHP project, which contains over 75,000 indexing terms. The IHP thesaurus is used by all the component projects of the IHP database.
  2. The Tel-Hai Index to Newspapers in Israel (1985-1997), a selective index of the leading daily newspapers, was a project conducted by the Tel-Hai College Library in the Upper Galilee. Articles chosen for indexing were the longer, analytical articles on social, economic and political topics (including editorials) as well as significant reviews of books, the theatre and other cultural events. General news items, as well as items of passing interest, were not indexed. Unfortunately the project was discontinued in 1997 due to lack of funding.
  3. The Eretz-Israel Database (in cooperation with the Library of the Ben Zvi Institute, Jerusalem) indexes additional material relating primarily to the history, geography and archaeology of the land of Israel. The database contains some 21,000 items, including non-Hebrew articles, pre-1977 Hebrew articles (i.e, published prior to the IHP project) and a number of relevant books, pamphlets and reports.
  4. The Bar-Ilan Indexing Project, conducted at the Wurzweiler Central Library of Bar-Ilan University, indexes articles appearing in the literary supplements of the daily Hebrew press, including those of the haredi (ultra-orthodox) press in Israel (1985- ongoing). It also includes the indexes to a number of Hebrew periodicals which have ceased publication.
The IHP database is available online to subscribing libraries (via Telnet) or can be purchase on CD-ROM, which updated semi-annually (http://www-lib.haifa.ac.il/www/libinfo/info.html).

The Index of Articles on Jewish Studies (RAMBI)

The Index of Articles on Jewish Studies (RAMBI) is a project run by the Jewish National and University Library (JNUL) since 1966, which has created a selective index of articles in the field of Judaic Studies and in the study of the Land of Israel. The database holds records for close to 100,000 articles published in thousands of periodicals and monographic collections of articles in Hebrew, Yiddish and European languages. The source periodicals and monographs are mainly from the collection of the JNUL: all materials arriving at the JNUL are scanned by the editors of RAMBI in search of articles appropriate for inclusion into the RAMBI database. RAMBI has been online since 1985: prior materials (1966-1985) are planned for conversion to computerized format during the coming year. Prior to 1966, Kiryat Sefer covered relevant materials, which arrived at the JNUL. RAMBI can be accessed through the Israel Inter-University Library Network by means of a Web browser or through a Telnet connection (http://sites.huji.ac.il/jnul/rambi/about_~1.htm).

IV. Special Bibliographic Projects

1. The Henrietta Szold Institute Database

The mission of the Szold Institute, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, is to serve as the National Institute for Research in the Behavioral Sciences. The Szold Institute engages in research and experimental projects mainly in the field of education and social services, and provides measurement, evaluation and consulting services for educational institutions and social services in Israel. The Szold Institute encompasses a computerized center for information in the fields of education and the behavioral sciences. The bibliographical database covers scholarly publications by Israeli researchers produced in Israel and overseas on the subjects of education, psychology, sociology, demography, social welfare, labor, communication, criminology, management and political science. The materials covered are in Hebrew, English and several other European languages and include books, articles, reports, conference proceedings, theses and dissertations, from 1976 onwards, the majority of which are held in the Institute's library. Each citation provides full bibliographical data, abstract and keywords, for which purpose the Institute has developed a specialized thesaurus. In addition to the bibliographical database, the computerized center for information has also developed four specialized databases: 1. A bibliographical database on computers in education; 2. an informational database containing detailed information on special projects in education and social services, intended for use by practitioners; 3. a database containing information on research tools such as questionnaires, tests and evaluation scales, intended for use by Israeli researchers; 4. a database of rehabilitation services in Israel. The materials referred to in these databases can be found in the Institute's library. The Szold Institute has produced a CD-ROM containing all its databases, including sophisticated search capabilities. The CD-ROM is produced by CDI Systems and is updated semi-annually. Currently, two of the databases (the bibliographical database on education and the behavioral science and the computers in education database) can be accessed through the Internet at two alternative sites (http://www.szold.org.il OR http://www.snunit.k12.il) . As of now these online databases only afford free-text searching: the Institute is working on a Web application of its thesaurus, which will allow the same search capabilities as are available on the CD-ROM.

2. The Moshe Dayan Center Bibliographical Database

The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies is an interdisciplinary research center devoted to the study of the modern history and contemporary affairs of the Middle East, focusing on the Arab world (including North Africa, Turkey and Iran) and Arab-Israeli relations. Originally established in 1959, it is today part of the School of History and the Entin Faculty of Humanities of Tel-Aviv University. Its library and document collection, including a comprehensive archive of the Arab press since 1950, are open to all researchers, regardless of nationality. The Dayan Center has developed a bibliographical database of over 100,000 items, covering articles, pamphlets and occasional papers on all aspects of the Middle East, published in English, French and Arabic. The database is freely accessible through the Internet (http://www.dayan.org/database.htm) and can be searched by title, author, keyword or journal name.

3. Yad Vashem Library and Database

Yad Vashem was established in 1953 by the government of Israel as a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and includes two central museums, exhibition halls, outdoor monuments, a library, a vast archival collection and the International Institute for Holocaust Research. The Yad Vashem Library is one of the largest collections in the world of published material dealing with the Holocaust and related topics, holding over 80,000 books and off-print articles, as well as almost 4,000 newspapers and journals (by title). The library catalog uses the ALEPH system, although it is not yet accessible through the ALEPH network. Yad Vashem is planning a complete computerization of its documentation system, which will make the retrieval system among the most advanced and accessible to the public worldwide. A selective bibliography is available at the Yad Vashem Website (http://www.yadvashem.org.il/holocaust/bibliography/index.html).

4. Center for Computerized Research Services in Contemporary Jewry (CCRS) at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University

One of the primary activities of CCRS is the management of the Contemporary Jewry Database, a consortium of computerized bibliographical projects including catalogs of the unique materials housed at the Institute as well as listings of articles and books on 20th century Jewish life in communities all over the world. Over 50,000 items have been indexed, abstracted, annotated and registered via applications of the ALEPH program designed for each project at the CCRS. A common index provides access to all registered descriptions of books, articles, films, videotapes, oral interviews and other documentation. The Contemporary Jewry Database includes the catalogs of the following projects: Oral History Division, the catalog of the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive and its Jewish Filmography Project, the Jewish Demography and Statistics Library, the World Registry of Jewish Studies and the bibliography of the Institute's publications and other books and articles relating to various aspects of contemporary Jewish communities and experience. Access to the database is through the ALEPH system of the Israel Inter-University network, via Telnet (ram1.huji.ac.il, username aleph lb JCJ).

5. The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive (JFA) and the Israel Filmography Database Project (JFI)

The English language database contains information on the holdings of the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive (founded in 1967), which is the world's largest collection of Jewish and Israeli documentary films. The collection, which is part of the Jewish National and University Library, strives to "acquire, preserve, catalog and make accessible the Jewish world on film." In the 1970s the World Zionist Organization appointed it the official film archive of Israel's national institutions. It includes extensive holdings covering Israel, both before and after the establishment of the State, the Holocaust and Jewish communities abroad throughout the century. The Judaica Department of Harvard College Library at Harvard University is the official depository of the Archive's films in the United States. The Israel Filmography Database Project contains information of films collected for the "Films of the Holocaust" project. The actual films are held by the Spielberg Archive, Yad Vashem, Lohamei Haghetaot, Israel Film Service, Beth Hatefutsoth, Israel Broadcasting Authority and others.The databases, using the ALEPH system, are accessible via Telnet (ram1.huji.ac.il, username aleph lb JFA and lb JFI) and at the Speilberg Jewish Film Archive Website (http://sites.huji.ac.il/jfa/ideas.htm)

6. The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism - The Felix Posen Bibliographic Project on Antisemitism

The mission of the Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, founded in 1982, is to serve as "an inter-disciplinary research center dedicated to an independent, non-political approach to the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge necessary for understanding the phenomenon of antisemitism engaging in research on antisemitism through the ages, focusing on relations between Jews and non-Jews, particularly in situations of tension and crisis" (http://sicsa.huji.ac.il/bibdes98.html). The Felix Posen Bibliographic Project on Antisemitism, conducted at the Center, has as its long term goal the production of a comprehensive bibliography of works on antisemitism throughout the ages. The Project has published printed bibliographies and offers access to its online database. The database has three sections: The Annotated Bibliography on Antisemitism (publications from 1984 to the present); Retrospective Bibliography (publications before 1984); and The "Jewish Question" in German-Speaking Countries, 1848-1914 (currently being supplemented to include materials from 1915-1933). The databases are accessible in Israel via Israel's university library network (ALEPH), and can be reached all over the world via Telnet (har2.huji.ac.il - username is SICSA) and through the Internet (http://sicsa.huji.ac.il/bibsear.html).

7. The Ben Zvi Institute - Bibliographic Projects

The Ben Zvi Institute, named after the second president of the State of Israel, is dedicated to research in two fields: study of the Land of Israel and the study of the culture and history of Jews in Moslem Africa and Asia. The Institute has published many monumental bibliographical works such as: The Jews of North Africa: Bibliography, by Robert Attal (rev. and enlarged ed., 1993); Les Juifs de Grece de l'expulsion d'Espagne a nos jours: Bibliographie by Robert Attal (1984, supplement 1996); Ethiopian Jewry: an Annotated Bibliography by Steven Kaplan and Shoshana Ben-Dor (1988). A full list of the projects and publications of the Ben-Zvi Institute can be viewed at the Institute's Website (http://www.ybz.org.il).

8. The National Sound Archives Database

The National Sound Archives was founded in 1964 as part of the Music Department in the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, with the stated goal of collecting and preserving the musical heritage of Jewish and non-Jewish communities in Israel as well as the musical traditions of Jewish communities in the Diaspora. Since the 1930s, researchers have gone into the field to record these communities and have continued to do so up to the present, collecting tens of thousands of recordings. Almost all of the recordings have been basically cataloged, providing the name of the researcher, the name of the person/s recorded and the name of the community, and a limited number of index terms have been assigned, thereby creating the database of the project. The database can be accessed via Telnet to the Aleph system (ram1.huji.ac.il, username aleph, lb PHO).

V. Conclusion

This lecture has surveyed only a small portion of the many and varied bibliographic tools and projects currently in progress in Israel. In the future we hope that all the Israeli bibliographic projects will be available to the widest possible audience around the world, through that wondrous invention, the Internet


I wish to thank the following persons who so patiently provided me with current information on the projects referred to in this article:
  • Raya Gutfreund, Director, Kiryat Sefer, JNUL
  • Isaac Yudlov, Director, Institute for the Bibliography of the Hebrew Book, JNUL
  • Susan Cohen, Index of Articles on Jewish Studies, JNUL
  • Amira Kehat, Index to Hebrew Periodicals, Haifa University
  • Ruth Teitelbaum, Director of Information Services, the Henrietta Szold Institute, Jerusalem
  • Michael Glatzer, The Ben Tzvi Insitute, Jerusalem
  • Ya'akov Mazor, The National Sound Archives, JNUL


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