Earlier this year, Israel had Hebrew Book Week for the first time in two years.
Hebrew Book Week actually started back in 1926 as a one-day event in Tel Aviv as a way to promote book sales. But since then, Hebrew Book Week has become a nation-wide celebration of books that lasts over a 10-day period. This made the event’s absence during the pandemic very clear. Gone were the outdoor book festivals, author signings, and incredible book sales at retailers.
The return of Hebrew Book Week was an overwhelmingly joyous thing throughout Israel, with vibrant, fun festivities throughout Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and beyond. A lot of times, the festivals and fairs will go into the night, with book lovers gathering for concerts, performances, book readings, and workshops. These 10 days become a book lovers’ paradise.
What makes Hebrew Book Week such a magical experience is more than the book sales (although who can resist a good book sale???). It’s the vibes, the passion, the joy. There is such a strong enthusiasm vibrating throughout the cities, with crowds of people gathering to talk about books, buy books, and learn about books. To just enjoy being surrounded by books and book lovers.
During Hebrew Book Week, the winner of the prestigious literary award, Sapir Prize for Literature, is also announced. The prize of $39K is given to a work of literature that’s in Hebrew. The last winner was Sami Bardugo in 2020 for his book, “Donkey.” This is the sixth time that Bardugo has been nominated for the Sapir Prize for Literature.
“Donkey” is about an Israeli man born in Azerbaijan who is told by two police officers to watch a donkey. Over the next eight days, the man forms a strong bond with the donkey as he internally struggles with feelings of abandonment and neglect.
Best Jewish YA Books of 2022
Looking to expand your own collection after hearing about Hebrew Book Week? Here are some books from 2022 that feature Jewish protagonists and other Jewish-centric themes.
The Lost Ryu by Emi Watanabe Cohen
Ryu are dragons that disappeared from Japan after World War II and have since become legends. Smaller versions of the dragons (small enough to fit in your palm) still remain and Kohei Fujiwara loves theirs. But they still want to see a big ryu before their grandpa passes away. Kohei gets help from his new half-Jewish neighbor and their Yiddish-speaking dragon.
The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen by Isaac Blum
Hoodie has moved to a new town with members of his Orthodox Jewish community and enjoys playing basketball and getting candy at the supermarket. He isn’t too concerned about the town’s mayor and all of the people who don’t seem too thrilled about his community moving in. But then he meets non-Jewish girl named Anna, the daughter of the mayor who doesn’t want Hoodie’s community in town. Hoodie’s family and friends feel betrayed as he gets closer to Anna, especially when some anti-semetic crimes take place, and Hoodie feels caught between two worlds.
Repairing the World by Linda Epstein
Tweens Daisy and Ruby are inseparable after growing up together. But when Ruby is killed in an accident, Daisy finds herself facing middle school alone without her best friend. Daisy leans on support from her family and Hebrew School friends to discover what her life is like without Ruby in it, keeping in mind that friendship is eternal.