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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Noga Bar-Lev lingers over the tables of books, scanning titles with the engrossed focus of a true book lover. "I've been wanting to read this," she says, scooping up a copy of Yair Lapid's The Second Woman. "I look forward to Book Week every year," she says. "It's not just books, there's such a good feeling here. There's something for everyone."
Tsila Chayoun, the producer of Hebrew Book Week, which runs until June 17, is inclined to agree. Chayoun says that she is "thrilled" by this year's response to the program, which combines traditional book sales with cultural and literary programming.
Chayoun credits the program's success to several factors, the first of which being its move from the Israel Museum to its new location at the old bus station, which underwent extensive renovations in preparation for the event. "This is an open, inviting venue," she says. "It's much more accessible; it's a charming atmosphere." In addition, Chayoun says, the programming - which includes literary salons, author presentations and children's theater - is free, thanks to a generous subsidy from the Keshet Foundation and the Jerusalem Municipality.
Bar-Lev, who brought her young daughter to a free exhibit of "Pop-Up" books in the renovated bus station, says that the lack of fee is an added bonus for her. "We can come to something different every night if we want to, and we don't have to buy anything." She holds up her bulging bag with a rueful grin. "But we buy anyway."
While Jerusalem is the undisputed hub of the program, Hebrew Book Week's presence is increasingly being felt throughout the country. In Haifa and Tel Aviv, Kfar Saba and Ramat Gan, Book Week is celebrated in parks, shopping malls and coffee shops.
Chayoun says that while Book Week activities have taken place in Be'er Sheva for the past five years, the program's organizers "saw a real need to increase and expand upon them." This year, the Noa Dar Dance Company opened the city's Book Week with a performance inspired by the poetry of Lea Goldberg. Tickets to the highly-subsidized performance, which usually costs NIS 80, were sold for only NIS 15.
Perhaps most notable, though, is Chayoun's determination to reach places that have traditionally not had equal access to cultural events due to a lack of proximity and funds. This year marks the first time that Book Week activities are being held in the isolated, struggling Negev towns of Dimona and Yeruham, where libraries and bookstores are hosting authors' nights and children's activities.
"There is very definately a need for this kind of programming," Chayoun says. "And we hope to continue expanding our efforts in this area." While Chayoun's early estimates of Book Week's success are very positive -"something like 8,000 people came the first night alone"-- she says she looks forward to seeing the exact numbers at the end of the week.
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