Chairman of Israel’s National Library Resigns Amid Sex Scandal Involving Personal Assistant

The chairman who allegedly sexually harassed his assistant and paid her hush money wrote in his resignation letter that he had 'fallen victim to a political and personal attack'

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Students visit the national library in Jerusalem
Students visit the national library in JerusalemCredit: Emil Salman
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

The chairman of the board of The National Library of Israel resigned Tuesday amid a sex scandal involving his female personal assistant, submitting a combative resignation letter.

David Blumberg announced his resignation just days after Channel 13 journalist Ayala Hasson broadcast a report alleging that he had sexually harassed a woman and then came to an agreement to pay her a large sum as hush money. The alleged victim, his personal assistant, was not a library employee.

The departure of Blumberg, who has chaired the library’s board of governors since 2007, has shaken the institution and came shortly before the library is slated to move to new luxurious headquarters near the Knesset. The building was Blumberg’s flagship project.

“The library and I have fallen victim to an intense and vicious attack, an attack motivated by extraneous and inappropriate considerations of political and personal revenge,” he wrote in his resignation letter. He alleged in the letter that due to his tremendous successes on behalf of the library, “opponents emerged who undermined my various steps regarding the project, for a variety of reasons that I won’t expand upon here.”

“I fell victim to personal attacks that included casting aspersions on my integrity, my motives, and my conduct; the attacks are of such scope and intensity that they significantly damaged my public standing, which I had earned honestly and with great effort,” he stated. 

“These malicious attacks included distortions, falsifications and threats as well as entirely baseless fabrications that I deny with disgust,” Blumberg wrote. “But at my advanced age and state of health, I find that my strength is sapping. Despite the severe sense of injustice, and despite the fact that before the outbreak of the storm, I was determined to continue contributing to the library’s renewal effort with all my strength – an effort that I view as my life’s work – I no longer have the strength to continue the fight to stop the malicious forces, to defend the library and myself from them and to clear my name. I’m no longer built to fight back.”

Blumberg has also recently faced fierce criticism, mainly from the right-wingers, over his controversial appointment of former State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan to the new post of national library rector. The move sparked criticism from people outside of library management, mainly among supporters of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They claim that Nitzan waged a political campaign against Netanyahu, who was indicted in three cases while Nitzan was the state prosecutor.

The cases are currently discussed in court. Critics also say the appointment is inappropriate because Nitzan lacks the academic or professional qualifications for the job.

The library’s director-general, Oren Weinberg, whose status at the library is considered under threat by Nitzan’s appointment, sent a letter of his own to the library’s staff following Blumberg’s resignation letter. Weinberg thanked the outgoing chairman for his “major contribution” and added that Blumberg had “led the library into the 21st century.” However, Weinberg didn’t comment on the circumstances of Blumberg’s resignation.

The library officially responded to the resignation with a statement saying, “We express our appreciation and esteem for the 20 years in which he devoted all of his qualifications and efforts on behalf of the National Library.”

The library is jointly owned by the Israeli government and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It has the status of a public benefit company. Knesset legislation describes it as “the national entity entrusted on behalf of Israel with preserving the printed treasures of the State of Israel and the culture of the Jewish people.”

Blumberg, who is 77, has served in several senior positions in the country’s economic and banking sectors as well as on the boards of major public companies. The Jerusalem Municipality awarded him its prestigious Yakir Yerushalayim prize. In 2013, he was given the honor of lighting a torch at the country’s main Independence Day ceremony.

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