The Garden Libraryby Camea Smith | 01.02.18
The Garden Library is a center for education, culture and arts located in the Levinsky park at the Neve Sha’anan neighbourhood, close by to the Tel Aviv central bus station. It was founded in 2009 by ARTEAM, an interdisciplinary art NGO, in collaboration with Mesila, an aid and information center for the foreign community. Designed as an open-air library with no barriers or walls by Yoav Meiri Architects, the library’s design conveys its most important principle: it is accessible to all. The library serves the area’s diverse communities – Israelis, migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers.
For the last five years, the library has been managed by Dafna Lichtman, formerly a community worker in the Mesila organization. Under her guidance, the multi-lingual library has expanded its activities considerably. Its children community center is one of the only after-school programs available to migrant and refugee children in the area. The library provides art, theater and music classes, as well as a study center that encourages the children’s academic achievements.
The library’s Initiatives for local youth include The Levinski Team (professional soccer groups for boys and girls) and Girls for Change, an empowerment group for teenage girls. The Garden Library also operates a culture center and a community education center for adults. The evening classes offered to members of the foreign communities are especially significant because of the lack of complementary education programs for foreigners.
Recently, the Israeli government has announced its plan to deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers to “third party” African countries. As many of the Garden Library’s collaborators are members of the refugee community, the library’s manager, Dafna Lichtman, commented on Israel’s policy: “The authorities should enable the citizens of Eritrea and Sudan to file applications for their status as refugees and asylum should be granted to those who are eligible. The history of our nation – our own experience as refugees – compels us to act accordingly.”