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'Either a woman wrote the Book of Ruth or else a very talented man did," said Avirama Golan at the close of her Tuesday evening workshop, entitled "Naomi: the First Convert."
Golan, one of 15 authors participating in the "Writers Reading Bible" series in Jerusalem, is the host of Bekria Rishona, a weekly television show, in which she interviews writers and readers of new books. She is also a member of the editorial board of Ha'aretz, known for her articles on welfare and society issues.
Although she emphasized her secular identity several times during her talk, Golan gave an often traditional biblical exposition, in line with many rabbinic commentators.
She merely touched on the issue of conversion, making the point that Ruth joined the Jewish community in a cultural way before being asked to commit to a legal process. Most of her talk, however, concentrated on the persona of Naomi, who she called a "uniquely powerful" biblical woman. Employing a mixture of rabbinic commentary and literary analysis, Golan demonstrated how the text depicts Naomi as being able to "give up the fantasy of being young in order to take full advantage of her own wisdom."
She further explained how in an era in which women's power was limited, Naomi and Ruth demonstrate an ability to seize control of their own destinies, making sure that the men in the story "did what they were supposed to do."
Golan held the audience's attention with her dramatic phrasing and sometimes comical tone. While she did not cite names of all sources, naming only contemporaries and collapsing all others into one rabbinic mass, she did use her considerable pedagogical skill to make the story come alive. She paused often to set the scene visually, helping the audience to see the narrative, in addition to reading it.
The series, in which Golan was the second presenter after David Grossman, lends well-known Israeli writers an opportunity to discuss biblical texts, which are often at the heart of their work. Other presenters will include Meir Shalev, Yehudit Katzir, Chaim Be'er and Shifra Horn. All talks are given in Hebrew and take place on Tuesday evenings at Beit Shmuel Mercaz-Shimshon, home of The World Union for Progressive Judaism, 02-620-3488. The entire series costs 730 NIS.
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