About the project
The Migrants’ Library serves some of Israel’s most insecure and transitory communities: that of the foreign workers, immigrants, and refugees, whose needs are often not recognized or met. Their countries of origin range from China, Thailand, Nepal, India, and the Philippines to Romania, Turkey, Ghana, Sudan and Eritrea.
Despite having insecure futures in Israel, many of the roughly 85,000 legal and 250,000 illegal employed foreign workers (including 80,000 asylum seekers) in Israel lack access to basic social institutions that Israelis take for granted.
Arteam aims, in cooperation with representatives of the community and service organizations, to build an institution that facilitates the expansion of these workers’ lives beyond crisis management, into a more integrated and normalized life. We want to increase communities’ access to information and reference specialists who are specifically trained to respond to their needs and gradually enabling them to managing their own needs.
The library is a product of the belief that culture and art are the basic needs of every human life.
It was set up in 2009 as an artistic-urban-community project by Arteam, an interdisciplinary art team (NGO) and resides in Levinski Garden, a public park near Tel-Aviv central station. It constitutes two wide bookcases placed next to the wall of a public shelter at the center of the garden: A tall bookcase for adults and across from it, a lower bookcase at children’s height. The library contains about 3500 books in different languages: Mandarin, English, Amharic, Romanian, Spanish, French, Arabic, Thai, Nepalese, Hindu, Tagalog, and Hebrew. The book lists were created in consultation with foreign community leaders in each language. The selection includes classics and masterpieces next to bestsellers, thrillers, comics, and romantic novels. The library is active on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays in the afternoon and early evening and on holidays and vacations. The library is being operated by about 70 volunteers (students, pensioners, intellectuals, and more), visited by around 10,000 work immigrants a year, and so far has 500 subscribed readers. The loaning of books is free of charge, with a 30 NIS as a deposit which is returned when the subscription ends. On Saturdays, we also screen films or organizing storytelling or puppet performances, performed by guest artists.
The library is much cherished by the communities who make use of it, and there is now an effort to update the books, enrich the activities for children and expand its uses by adding internet posts, enabling free web surfing to the work immigrants and their children.
About the artist
Arteam is run by Romy Achituv (multi-disciplinary artist), Marit Benisrael (multi-disciplinary artist and writer), Yoav Meiri (architect), Hadas Ophrat (interdisciplinary artist and chairman of Arteam), and Tali Tamir (independent art curator and art historian)