Tuesday, August 10, 2010

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.‎

1 comment:

  1. I remember my first time at the festival. It was many years ago. I was in university at the time..a youngster. Coming from North America in a time well before the dawning of the internet, I was overwhlemed as I strolled the aisles with not only the number of various Hebrew books, but all the different genres. I suppose now it was my narrow view of what Jewish/Hebrew books were....I associated them with religion and Hebrew school and synagogue. Here I was walking among children's books and secular novels as well as the expected books on Torah. It was amazing.
    I still cherish the books I bought that day; two cookbooks and 2-3 book sets of Hebrew/English, English/Hebrew dictionaries.
    Now that you raise the question so eloquently,I think that the festival is as important for people in the Diaspora as it is for Israelis. The festival displays the vitality of Israel.