Ayalon Prison opened in October 1950 in a building that had belonged to the British Mandate police. It houses 750 prisoners, most of them long-term. The prison library was opened in a renewed format in 2001 thanks to the generosity of the late Batsheva Levy. Eyal Amitai, the head of the prison's education division, is responsible for the library's management and the acquisition of books. The daily running of the library is handled by Adi (a 27-year-old prisoner serving a 15-year sentence), who has been serving as the librarian for two years now.
Recently acquired books: "Friendly Fire," By A.B. Yehoshua; "The Big Bang," by Simon Singh; "In the Country of Men," by Hisham Matar; and "Hungarian Portrait," by Orly Krauss-Weiner. Tamir, a library user: "Write that we are waiting impatiently for Yair Lapid's "Sunset in Moscow," which we've purchased but which hasn't arrived yet.
Books they are planning to acquire soon: "Mozart: His Life and Works"; "Social Intelligence"; "Mao, the Unknown Story" (Adi: "The librarians compose the list on the advice of Haaretz Books supplement [to which one of the inmates subscribes], according to requests from the prisoners and in consultation with the Belfer Library in Ramle. We give the information to Eyal Amitai and he makes the purchases").
Popular genres: thrillers, action, romances, travel books, psychology (Adi: "Everyone is interested in books about relationships and parenting in the wake of the therapy groups we have in the prison"); training and fitness (Adi: "Thanks to the yoga workshop we do, there is now interest in Pilates"); and medicine (Adi: "'The Merck Manual of Medical Information: Home Edition' is especially fascinating for the older prisoners").
Number of times lent: "The Trial," by Franz Kafka - 3; "Dolly City," by Orly Castel-Bloom - 2; "Angels and Demons," By Dan Brown - 25; "Lost and Found," by Uri Adelman - 20; "Little Sister," by Ram Oren - 30 (Adi: "I have to puncture a myth. Even though prisoners have time on their hands, they don't necessarily read more or devote their time to quality books. Anyone who read before prison will read when he's doing time. Anyone who didn't read will not necessarily change his reading habits").
The most popular authors: Ram Oren, Harlan Coben, Joseph Finder, Tom Clancy, Paulo Coelho, Yair Lapid and also Danielle Steel, and Shammai Golan, author of "My Travels With Books" (Adi: "Any book that has to do with travel is a bestseller in prison").
The books to which readers return most often: titles by Ephraim Kishon, S.Y. Agnon, and poetry books like "Rahel" and "66 Poets" (Adi: "Prisoners love to quote lines from poems in letters they write to people outside").
The books the library recommends to readers: Adi: "If someone wants an emotional book that makes you cry then I recommend 'Girls for Sale - A True Story' and 'Burnt Alive,' the story of a Palestinian woman who was the victim of an attempted family honor killing; or Danielle Steel's 'The Long Road Home.' In the thriller category: John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Ram Oren, 'The Sixth Riddle,' by Yair Lapid, and 'The Straw Men,' by Michael Marshall."
Books that remain on the shelves, and which nobody borrows: Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes (Adi: "Like readers on the outside, the prisoners like to read books that have just come out and are starring on the bestseller lists. They are less attracted to old books").
Popular children's books: "Upturned Turtle," by Sarit Darshan; "Nurit Zarchi's Big Book"; "There's No Such Thing as a Dragon," by Jack Kent; books by Dr. Seuss.
Titles the library would like to have but hasn't been able to obtain: Books by Clive Cussler, like "The Treasure of Khan" and "Dragon."
The most popular reference book: "Selected Chapters in Psychiatry" (Adi: "Prisoners are attracted to books about psychology").
The book that prisoners "lose" most often: "Selected Chapters in Psychiatry."
Estimated number of books in the library: 4,200.
Number of readers: About 100 prisoners borrow books regularly and about 15prisoners exchange books occasionally. About 10 members of the prison staff also exchange books at the library.
Number of loans annually: 1,800 (about 150 loans a month), about 10 or 15 people a day.
The library's budget: NIS 10,000 annually.
Major genres: prose (3,200 volumes), thrillers, romances, Hebrew literature, translations, poetry, textbooks (300), reference books (700), psychology, philosophy, law, biographies. Recently about 210 volumes of Supreme Court rulings were added to the library. There are also magazines and daily newspapers for reading in the library.
Languages: Hebrew, Russian, English and Arabic.
Shelving system: The books for reading are arranged by author's name, and the reference books by the Dewey Decimal System.
Hours: Every day from 12:00 to 1:00 P.M. for prisoners who study at the education center and four times a week from 15:30 to 17:00 for all prisoners who come for activities at the education center. Nearly every prisoner can go to the library on condition that he has been through the necessary security authorization procedures.
Lending policy: Every prisoner is entitled to borrow one or two books for up to one month (reference books do not circulate). There are no fines. There are no punishments.