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 A dear friend of mine recently immigrated here to Israel and Jerusalem. As is the case with almost all Western immigrants to our wonderful little country, he was forced to downsize. We all somehow learned to live here in apartments and houses half the size of those that we inhabited in the "old home." To those of us who are bibliophiles, this presents an especially painful problem.

We possess hundreds of carefully chosen books that are full of knowledge and memories and that we treasure beyond their monetary value… and we have no place to put them. I recall that when I emigrated from America and settled in Israel nineteen years ago, I left over a thousand books that I could not bring with me since I had no room to put them in our Jerusalem apartment.
I still miss not having these books with me and am often frustrated when I wish to research a fact and I know what book it appears in but I then recall that that book is no longer with me. Now, my newly arrived friend has an enormous library of wonderful books stored in a container outside of an Israeli harbor, knowing full well that there is almost no hope of cramming them in to his current apartment.
His frustration expressed to me often and regularly, only serves to reawake my angst regarding the books that I left back in America, those no longer available on my bookshelves. Even so, as any visitor to our apartment will readily notice, books are scattered throughout all of our rooms, the bane of my wife's ambition to have a perfectly orderly home. But, only those who loves books and feels them to be companions through life's vicissitudes, can appreciate why books should always trump order, neatness and appearance.
The Jewish people have been known as the “people of the book” for many centuries. And we are not only the people of one book – though that book is the holy Torah, eternally unmatched in importance and necessity – we are the people of books generally.
Here in Israel, almost every home contains bookshelves groaning under the weight of more books than they were originally intended to hold. Books, to a certain extent, have always been the lifeblood of the Jewish people. They are the repositories of wisdom, of controversy, of inspiration and insight that have marked our journey through the history of civilization.
They have comforted us in our hours of need and desperation, have helped educate our children and grandchildren and given us hope and vision in very dark times. It is no accident that our enemies, in their attempts to destroy us, were always engaged in burning our books. By so doing, they attempted to ensure that somehow we would not be able to survive their persecution and atrocities.
But we somehow salvaged our books from the burning embers, reprinting, republishing and redistributing them. The small prayer books smuggled into the Soviet Union in the 1970s by the innocent Jewish "tourists," which were then destroyed by the KGB, were certainly a factor in bringing down that evil empire. The existence and survival of the Jewish people truly vindicates the saying that "the pen is mightier than the sword."
Books are today in danger from another unforeseen and unexpected force and competitor. The technology of the computer and phone chip has for many replaced the book as the necessary tool for knowledge and inspiration. Those of us of my generations still fancy holding an actual book in our hand when doing research or even reading for pleasure. However, tablets and smart phones are currently the “books” of choice and appear to be the same for the coming generations.
Even in the field of Talmud, Judaic and rabbinic studies, the computer has become a necessary and invaluable tool for knowledge and achievement. So, I am now able to read and research those books that I left in the States. Though they are no longer with me physically, by simply pressing the right buttons and accessing them on the Internet, I have them at my fingertips.
Yet, even as I do so, I feel the pangs of loneliness and nostalgia. I do not have the feel of the book in my hands, the rumpled pages and the smudges that were so carelessly inflicted. And, though I consider my books to be my good friends, I am not certain that the age of books as I knew it will ever return. 
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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