Next week sees the welcomed return of the Jerusalem International Book Fair (JIBF). Since it first began in 1963, the JIBF has grown tremendously in both popularity and status. Today it is regarded as one of the most prestigious events on the world-wide literary calendar. Attracting more than 1200 publishers from over 40 countries, the JIBF has over 100,000 books on offer, written in a wide variety of languages. The climax of the Fair is always the Jerusalem Prize ceremony, in which an award is given to an author whose work expresses the theme of individual freedom in society. Polish writer and philosopher Leszek Kolakowski is scheduled to receive the $10,000 award this Sunday night at the opening at 6pm, although it has been rumored that his health may prevent his attendance. Past winners have included Arthur Miller and Susan Sontag. An international project will also be launched on opening day. Led by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Peoples of the World Inscribe the Bible" is a project that enables honored contributors to pen a verse from "The Song of Songs" into a book in his own language and words. It was inaugurated at the International Book Fair in Frankfurt and since then, the book has traveled throughout the world with contributions from 16 countries written in 21 different languages. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will inscribe the first verse in Israel in the presence of ambassadors from all over the world. Writers and artists will participate in a similar project on Wednesday, February 21 in which they will also inscribe a verse of their own, adding something of their own personal approach to the Bible. Among those contributing will be Gila Almagor, Miron Izakson, Romi Somek, Shulamit Aloni, and others. Local writers rarely miss the chance to take part in the Fair. Amos Oz, Aharon Appelfeld, Tzruya Shalev, Eshkol Nevo, Ronit Matalon, Uri Orlev, and Shimon Adaf will meet with writers from abroad at "literary cafes" throughout the week. Panel discussions and readings will also be held on Tuesday February 20 as part of the "Voices From Tantur" event which aims to bring Israeli, Arab, and Palestinian writers, screenwriters and directors together in discourse. Among the participants are Ron Leshem, Yossi Sider, Michal Govrin, A.B. Yehoshua, Wali Najem, Etgar Keret, Liana Bader, and Sayed Kashua. And for all the Harry Potter aficionados, Gili Bar Hillel will speak on Wednesday February 21 about her experience translating Harry Potter and her speculations on the final book. Perhaps most anticipated is the joint literary musical performance of Neapolitan poems by Italian author Erri De Luca, author of God's Mountain and singer Ahinoam Nini at 7pm on Tuesday February 20. According to Nini, after De Luca speaks, he may even join her in singing. The Fair runs from Sunday February 18 to Friday February 23. It is open to all and entrance is free. For further details about other events scheduled, go to www.jerusalembookfair.com.

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