The 11th International Writers Festival recently concluded in Jerusalem, at Mishkenot Sha'ananim, providing a timely reminder of the enduring power and significance of written texts in an age when their meaning can sometimes be diluted. Over the course of five days, the Festival showcased the vibrant literary culture in Israel, shining a spotlight on the talented writers and authors working within its borders. This annual celebration of literature brought together over 90 local and international participants who engaged in more than 30 captivating events.
Among the highlights of this year's Festival was a captivating conversation with Margaret Atwood, the esteemed 83-year-old Canadian author renowned for her iconic work "The Handmaid's Tale." The Festival was particularly proud to secure an interview with Atwood, conducted online from her home in Canada. Artistic director Julia Fermentto-Tzaisler engaged Atwood in a thought-provoking dialogue, exploring themes from her dystopian novel. “I saw a tweet by Margaret Atwood about the use of handmaid imagery in Israeli protests,” says Fermentto-Tzaisler, “and I immediately requested an interview. To my great delight, she agreed right away. The conversation itself was fascinating; we talked about the literary symbol she created which unprecedentedly became one of the most powerful symbols of the age, about literature and protest, and the political situation in Israel.”
Another significant event at this year's Writers Festival was the inaugural convention of PEN Israel. PEN International, the world's largest and most esteemed writers' organization with branches in 147 countries, celebrated the establishment of PEN Israel at Mishkenot Sha'ananim. The conference saw influential figures such as Olga Tokarczuk, the Nobel Prize-winning Polish writer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan, and Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, deliver compelling speeches. The conference brought together 120 individuals from Israel's literary community, surpassing expectations and initiating crucial literary collaborations within Israel and beyond.
A video summarizing the festival’s highlights is available for viewing on the Mishkenot Sha'ananim Facebook page:
Additionally, select festival events have been uploaded to the organization's YouTube channel, offering the opportunity to engage with the literary discussions and performances from the comfort of one's own home.
Revital Ben-Naim, head of the Literature Desk at the Cultural Diplomacy Bureau within the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs says: “We are proud to collaborate on international literary events such as the Writers Festival, recognizing the profound impact of literature in fostering cultural exchange and understanding.”