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August 14, 1998

Zion's Call Exhibition Marks Israel's 50th Year

"Zion's Call: A Library of Congress Exhibition Marking Israel's Fiftieth Year" opens on Sept. 17 in the South Gallery of the Great Hall in the Jefferson Building; it closes Dec. 19.

On May 14, 1948, the modern state of Israel was established. "Zion's Call" brings together early renderings of the land of Israel with documentation on the founding of the state of Israel. Included are books, manuscripts, maps and broadsides featuring the Holy Land, Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple. Augmenting these images are materials that document the development of modern Zionism in the late 19th century and the birth of Israel.

From its earliest days, the Library of Congress has collected Judaica and Hebraica. Thomas Jefferson's collection, which forms the nucleus of today's Library of Congress, included a Mishnah (a compendium of Rabbinic law and lore compiled ca. 200), as well as a Hebrew grammar written by Baruch Spinoza. The systematic collection of Hebraica dates to 1912, when Jacob Schiff, a noted financier and philanthropist, purchased for the national library the first of four collections totaling some 20,000 volumes from bookseller and bibliographer Ephraim Deinard.

After the state of Israel was established, the Library of Congress began a comprehensive acquisitions program to document the rich and multifaceted life of modern Israel. Today, the Library holds more than 150,000 volumes of Hebraica, as well as films, prints, photographs, maps, sheet music, cassettes, compact disks and videotapes that document the history, culture and politics of Israel.

"Zion's Call: A Library of Congress Exhibition Marking Israel's Fiftieth Year" features selections from these collections, including the first Hebrew book printed in the Holy Land, Yom Tov Zahalon's Lekah Tov, a commentary on the Book of Esther published in Safed in 1577; a 19th century wall plaque with depictions of the region's four "Holy Cities": Jerusalem, Tiberias, Safed, and Hebron; one of the earliest maps of the Holy Land in Hebrew characters, which first appeared in a Haggadah published in Amsterdam in 1695; and a decorated 19th century synagogue wall hanging with images of Jerusalem.

Also, the Library will host musical performances, poetry and literature readings, lectures, and film presentations in conjunction with the exhibition and as a part of its year-long celebration of "Israel at 50," produced with the cooperation of the Embassy of Israel.

The exhibition is made possible by a grant from the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation of Washington, D.C. The South Gallery, located adjacent to the Visitors' Center in the Jefferson Building, is open to the public free of charge from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. An illustrated checklist will be available to visitors.

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PR 98-122
ISSN 0731-3527

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