Since this is my first post, I thought I would explain my choice of picture which seems to encapsulate the theme of this blog. In the photo, I am standing in front of a booth at the well-known book festival in Jerusalem called Shavua HaSefer (Book Week). This annual week-long celebration of books takes place in numerous locations all over Israel. Since I happened to be in Israel this June, I was finally able to attend this festival for the first time. I must say that more than anything, I was struck by the sheer vitality of the event.
Not only was I impressed by the enormous number of Israeli book publishers displaying their wares (and in a country as tiny as Israel, this alone deserves mention), but the different sorts of people buying books was what astounded me most. From men in Hasidic garb to women with shaved heads and tattoos (with most of the crowd falling somewhere in between) the people were certainly as colorful as the displays themselves. I found it fascinating to observe this full range of types ---religious, secular, Jew, Arab, old, young--- all coming to the same place for the singular purpose of finding that right book. And done with such fervor. I sometimes found that I could barely get close to some of the booths as the hunting was so intense.
I was also impressed by the large number of families with children attending
the festival. There were no rides or amusements for the children (other than a few free balloons at some of the booths) ---just heaps and heaps of books. As I roamed between the rows of books, I couldn’t help thinking that this may be one of the most telling features of life in Israel: despite all the anguish of the past, the people of the Book, like wide-eyed children, are still excited at the prospect of a book.