Jewish Book Week kicks off in London

Some 120 speakers are slated to appear at over 70 sessions dedicated to a variety of subjects.

jewish book week 224.88 (photo credit: Gerry Temple)
jewish book week 224.88
(photo credit: Gerry Temple)
Israel Prize winner Prof. Menahem Brinker kicked off Jewish Book Week 2008, one of the highlights of the London's literary calendar, in central London on Saturday night. Ambassador Ron Prosor delivered the event's opening speech, praising Israeli contributors to this year's event. Prosor paid tribute to Israel's rich and varied intellectual landscape, sustained by Israeli writers and intellectuals of vastly differing perspectives, during the first 60 years of the state. Brinker, who is a professor of philosophy and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and one of the founders of the Israeli peace movement, shared a panel with Hannah Naveh, dean of the Faculty of Arts at Tel Aviv University and Shlomo Avineri, professor of political science at Hebrew University. Entitled "Israel at 60: Heroes and Anti-Heroes," the panel members discussed who were heroes and who were anti-heroes and the role they played in influencing Israel's national discourse. The opening session began with a short interview with Amos Oz, filmed by author Etgar Keret. With more than 70 sessions covering subjects such as Jewish mysticism, philosopher Baruch Spinoza and secular Jewish culture, Isaiah Berlin's commitment to Zionism and views on emancipation, and the Holocaust, Jewish Book Week 2008 runs until March 2. Some 120 speakers are slated to appear at a host of debates, discussions and workshops, book launches, and free events, such as documentary film screenings. On Sunday, deputy ambassador Talya Lador-Fresher, Al-Quds University President Prof. Sari Nusseibeh and novelist and Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland are scheduled to participate in a panel entitled "Israel at 60: Coming of Age." Historian Benny Morris is slated to discuss on Tuesday new historiography on the events of 1948 with London University's School of Oriental and African Studies lecturer Colin Shindler, who himself is in session on Sunday discussing his new book, The History of Modern Israel. "This year is particularly important for us, as we will be marking Israel's 60th anniversary with the greatest number of sessions devoted to Israel ever and the greatest number of speakers coming from Israel," Geraldine D'Amico, director of Jewish Book Week, said. "We want to celebrate the miracle Israel is, but also face its challenges. We are trying to give a platform to as many different voices as possible expressing a very diverse range of opinions," she added. If There is a Heaven author Ron Leshem is expected to talk about his book, which was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film Beaufort; novelists Eshkol Nevo and Yehudit Katzir will discuss cultural shifts in Israeli literature, and iconic photographer David Rubinger will talk about his 60 years as a photojournalist. "Our audience will be entertained, challenged, informed but certainly never bored," D'Amico said. Next Sunday, photographer Ricki Rosen will share her stories of Ethiopian refugees' transformation into full-scale Israeli citizens. Other highlights of Jewish Book Week include economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, who will talk about the cost of war, and appearances by novelists such as Monica Ali, Amy Bloom, Linda Grant, Sayed Kashua and Zadie Smith; psychoanalysts Adam Phillips and Susie Orbach; memoirist Shalom Auslander and playwright and poet Arnold Wesker. Jewish Book Week 2008 will close next Sunday with a session in which former Ha'aretz editor-in-chief David Landau and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger will discuss "The Last Word: Reporting the Middle East."