Table of continentals

International guests and a diverse local population meet at the Jerusalem Book Fair.

book week 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
book week 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Jerusalem International Book Fair is probably the biggest celebration for non-Hebrew readers in Israel. Though its main purpose is to promote local publishers and books that might be translated into Hebrew, it is also a great opportunity for the local communities that are still engaged with their mother tongue. On Monday, the Israeli Italian community took the opportunity to engage in several hours of loud Italian conversation with political experts from their homeland. Afterward, they paid tribute to the famous Italian journalist and author Oriana Fallaci, who passed away last September. She was described as "the journalist to whom virtually no world figure would say no." The French community, on the other hand, enjoyed singing and socializing between the fair's book stands. They did not leave without sipping some wine and tasting French cheeses. Many English and Russian readers made the most of the event and came to look for books written in their original language. "It is much easier to find good books in Russian here, though we do have a large variety of them in Israel, but here they are also cheaper," said Svetlana Weisman, who was busy ploughing through a large pile of Russian books. Students and academics, most of whom know or study English, have also discovered the advantages of the book fair. "This is a great place to look for up-to-date academic literature you cannot find in the Israeli libraries yet," said Magi Kleiman, an architecture student at the Haifa Technion. More than just a place to purchase books, the Jerusalem Book Fair presented visitors with a busy program as well. During the week the public joined Israeli author Tzruya Shalev, together with Dutch author Ariella Kornmehl, who held a discussion on different literary points of view. The two authors met through their mutual agent. Other Israeli authors and poets such as Eshkol Nevo, Uri Orlev, Amos Oz and Ronit Matalon also met with colleagues from overseas or presented their latest work. Veteran politician and activist Shulamit Aloni hosted Israeli writers and moderated a discussion about how the people of the world relate to the Bible. At another event, popular singer Ahinoam Nini performed a duet with Neopolitan author Erri de Luca. All in all, this book fair is not as lively as the annual Hebrew Book Week. Not many children wander between the stalls and those who do are usually quiet and polite. "Most visitors here are older, above 30 years old, and the atmosphere here is much more serious compared to other book fairs. But there is something heartening in the fact that people can walk around and rummage in the book piles," said Sara, a worker at one of the fair's stands. "This event is targeted mainly at publishers who can find each other here, though many other people come for the fun of it or hoping to find a certain book. But in general, this is a pretty boring event," said Dana, another worker in the fair.