The National Archives (NA) of the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi and the National Library of Israel (NLI) in Jerusalem have signed an historic memorandum of understanding, which “commits the two organizations to work together in support of mutual and separate goals and for the benefit of the international cultural and documentary heritage sector,” according to the agreement signed by the institutions’ directors, Dr. Abdulla M. Alraisi and Oren Weinberg.
Some seven months into the “Abraham Accords”, this MOU represents the most significant institutional agreement in the field of cultural heritage. Both the NA and the NLI serve as central institutions of national memory for their respective countries and broader publics. In recent years, both have launched expansive and diverse efforts to serve scholars and wider audiences domestically and internationally.
The document, which is valid for an initial three-year period, lays out several areas for collaboration, including digitization and digital sharing of holdings and research materials; professional knowledge sharing; cultural exchange such as conferences, workshops, training, study tours, exhibitions, and more.
Several specific collaborative initiatives are already under discussion, specifically in the digital realm.
The NA is one of the oldest cultural institutions in the UAE and the largest documentation organization in the Arabian Gulf region. It collects historical material relating to the United Arab Emirates in particular and the Arabian Gulf states in general, and also documents, indices, and translates the materials collected; publishes specialized historical research; and hosts and organizes conferences, symposiums, and exhibitions domestically and internationally.
The NLI is the dynamic institution of national memory for the Jewish people worldwide and Israelis of all backgrounds and faiths, serving as Israel’s leading research library while offering a range of educational, cultural, and digital initiatives. NLI holds the world’s largest collection of textual Judaica, as well as a significant collection of Islamic manuscripts and Arabic materials, as well as one of the region’s leading research collections on the Middle East. The landmark new NLI campus – with state-of-the-art research facilities, as well as cultural and educational programming – is on schedule to open in Jerusalem in 2022.
David Blumberg, Chairman of the Board of Directors, National Library of Israel, said in a statement: “I do not doubt that the real leap forward in ensuring sustainable peace and cordial relations over time will be in the realm of cultural ties, and the importance of respect for other cultures. I am certain that close collaboration between the National Archives of the UAE and the National Library of Israel will serve as a cornerstone in ensuring warm relations for the mutual benefit of both countries into the future.”
Dr. Abdulla M. Alraisi, Director-General, National Archives of the United Arab Emirates: Archives, said in a statement: “The National Archives has spread its wings around the world to reach the most advanced global archives and libraries, to obtain the documents that come at the heart of its interest as it documents the memory of the homeland for generations, and here we are today trying to complete our mission by reaching the holdings of the Israeli National Library to enhance the holdings of the National Archives with more documents, books, and periodicals that were issued in the Hebrew language, which has become of great significance to intellectuals and those interested in history, heritage, and contemporary sciences”.
Dr. Raquel Ukeles, Head of Collections, National Library of Israel, said in a statement: “We are dedicated to opening access to our treasures for diverse audiences in Israel and around the globe. Each year tens of thousands of researchers from across the Middle East utilize our digitized collections of rare manuscripts, historic press, and other materials. Our new regional partnership with the National Archives of the UAE will advance our shared goals of preserving and opening access to cultural heritage for the benefit of users of all ages and backgrounds in Israel, the UAE, and across the region and the world.”