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Beginning June 6, book lovers from all over Israel will gather to read, write, discuss, buy and share in their common interest during the 46th annual Hebrew Book Week. With events and fairs taking place in every major city as well as in 50 of the country's smaller towns, access to the festival's speakers, discounted books, activities and shows will be just as close as...well, your own bookshelf.
Tzila Hayun of Hotam, the organization which produces the major cultural and artistic aspects of the festival, describes the festival as "one of the most important events of the year. It really gives you an opportunity to get to know what's new, what's been going on recently in the publishing world - and not only in the way that the publishers want you to know about it."
With over $1 million invested, "you can't find a selection like this in any bookshop," agrees Rachel Edelman, chairperson for the Book Publishing Association of Israel, which also organizes and oversees the events of the week.
Tents and stands will introduce event-goers to the 150 participating Hebrew publishing houses, offering a sample of what they have been working on and producing over the course of the year.
"There will be so many choices to interest people from books that you have always wanted to read to books that you completely forgot about. It's all there," Edelman continues.
A series of new titles will also be published for the first time specifically for the event, and many book stores throughout the country will discount their merchandise in its honor.
Hotam's focus this year, Tzila Hayun explains, will be on the Book Week's activities in Jerusalem. There, the festival will act as an addition to the many celebrations of the city's 40th anniversary of reunification.
Since the location was a huge success last year, Jerusalem's official "indoor" events will take place at the old train station. With open entry, the exhibition will include student readings, meetings with authors and illustrators and story hours for children.
Some of the authors expected include Smadar Shir, Amy Robinger, Ephraim Sidon, Amos Bar and Shlomo Abas.
This year, the area designated for children will also expand significantly with "a lot of the events in the afternoons for the whole family," Hayun promises. Giant mazes, letter puzzles, games and opportunities to meet with writers and artists will keep even the little ones interested and involved in the business of books.
At around 8p.m. each evening, the festival's focus will shift gears and adapt for a more adult audience with events like "Pen of Change" on Wednesday, June 13. The presentation will exhibit social and literary criticism under the guidance of numerous alternative publishing houses, underground writers and local social organizations.
Another section of the festival that its organizers are eagerly anticipating, according to Hayun, is the "Edge of the Stage" exhibition, a four night series centered on different countries, cultures and languages whose works have been translated to Hebrew this year. Meeting poets and novelists and experiencing music, conversation, video and dance, participants will encounter a blend of Hebrew literature with the cultures of Germany, France, Poland and Japan.
With more events than the inside tents and auditoriums can hold, the book craze will spill out onto the streets of downtown Jerusalem too, hitting bookstores, local bars, cafes and restaurants. Tmol Shilshom, Zuni, and Cafit are among the many area hot spots that will host meetings and talks by writers, poets, translators and literary critics over the course of the festival.
Similar major events and appearances will be held in Park HaYarkon in Tel Aviv as well as in Haifa, Beer Sheva, Holon, Netanya, Rishon Lezion and other places around the country.
"This is a real happening," Rachel Edelman emphasizes. "With the festival, we can bring together people who might not normally even be interested in picking up a book."
The 46th annual Hebrew Book Week will take place from June 6-16 with no cost for entry. For a full list of locations and schedules, please visit www.sfarim.co.il.