Thursday, June 16, 2011

Israel: "Shavua HaSefer HaIvri - The Hebrew Book Week" 2011

June 2010: The Hebrew Book Fair at Kikar Rabin in Tel Aviv.

Photo: Miriam Woelke


Yesterday evening, the annual "Shavua HaSefer Ha'Ivrit - The Hebrew Book Week" opened its gates until 25th June 2011. The book fair has a long and important tradition in Israel where Israelis usually buy books by kilogram. During the Hebrew Book Week, books may be purchased much cheaper than thoughout the year.

Nevertheless, within the past two years, the Israeli book market has undergone vital changes. The two largest bookstore chains "Zomet HaSefarim" and "Steimatzky" are having a war and fight for each customer. First, "Zomet HaSefarim" started selling popular pocket books for half price and even less. The competitor "Steimatzky" had no choice and started its campagne "Buy one book and get the second for half price". 

Under normal circumstances, Hebrew books in Israel are rather expensive and even book in English are cheaper than a book in Hebrew. It goes without saying that Israelis started running to "Zomet HaSefarim" as soon as regular books were being sold under price. As you can imagine, Israeli book authors went wild and started complaining to the government. The bookstores as well as the customers didn't care but enthusiastically went for the special offers. Including myself.

There are special offers at the book week event but, at the same time, the two bookstore chains offer the same; if not cheaper than the stands at the fair. This is what I experienced last year. The books at the fair were still expensive and afterwards I went to "Zomet HaSefarim" in Dizengoff Center (Tel Aviv) where I got a much better offer for buying some of the books. 

Photo: Miriam Woelke

The Hebrew Book Week has its own Website where you can find further information. Including the addresses of the fairs in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheva, Netanya, Kfar Saba, Petach Tikwa, Ramat Gan, Modi’in, Ramat HaSharon and Ra’anana.

In Tel Aviv, the Hebrew Book Week is taking place at Rabin Square (in front of the municipality building.There are also haredi fairs these days and you can find them in haredi shopping areas such as Rabbi Akiva Street in Bnei Brak or around Kikar Shabbat / Malchei Israel Street in Ge'ulah (Jerusalem).


  1. "Hebrew books in Israel are rather expensive and even book in English are cheaper than a book in Hebrew"

    In Europe, it's quite the contrary. A book in Loshon Hakodesh (LHK) is sometimes twice cheaper than the same book in French or English. It's in fact more advantageous to buy them in LHK (ptovided that you can read and understand LHK).

  2. B"H

    You are referring to Sifrei HaKoidesh (religious book) and you are right. Those books are much cheaper than English editions such as Artscroll. However, I was more referring to novels and ordinary books where the opposite is happening. Novels in Hebrew are much more expensive than English editions. For instance, a regular Israeli novel costs betweet 87 and 94 Shekels whereas an English novel costs about 55 and a bit more.

  3. "You are referring to Sifrei HaKoidesh (religious book) and you are right"

    Of course, I was referring to Sifrei HaKodesh. What else? as I never read novels and things like that in my life, and my children will never too :-)

    By the way, we have a lot of difficulty in the Religious world to read books written in Ivrit (modern Hebrew), as we generally avoid that language, we don't understand it quite well. To tell the truth, when I read a religious book written in Ivrit, I understand NOTHING, or just a little bit, or I have to think some seconds before discovering the meaning of certain words. B'H, there are some useful dictionaries available. Too difficult. LHK is more more simple, as Yiddish. Every time I meet an Israeli who attends one of the local Beis Chabad, I have to guess what's the meaning of such or such new word he uses, or when it's my turn to speak, when I don't know how to say such or such word in Ivrit (because the word does not exist in LHK), I use a French or English word instead, and we understand each other. In fact, all the local Lubavitcher, even the Rabbi, do the same, and it's funny! Hebrew mixes with French and English.

  4. B"H

    How good was the spoken Hebrew of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe ? Is this known at all, as he mostly spoke in Yiddish.

  5. "How good was the spoken Hebrew of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe ? Is this known at all, as he mostly spoke in Yiddish"

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe generaly used to avoid speaking in Hebrew for the simple reason that the Baal Shem Tov and all those who succeeded him disseminated Torah in Yiddish. All the previous Lubavitcher Rebbes also used only Yiddish when speaking in public. So, the Rebbe said we should stick to that custom that a Rebbe only speaks in Yiddish with his chassidim. When he was visited by people who couldn't understand Yiddish, the Rebbe used French, Spanish, Russian, Polish, English or Hebrew instead. But when speaking Hebrew, he always was careful to use the ashkenazic prononciation. Yitzhak Rabbin told that when he visited the Rebbe, he had a lot of difficulty to understand the Rebbe with his Ashkenazic prononciation. There are cases of Israeli politic figures who were accompagnied with someone who was "translating" in Sephardic prononciation the words of the Rebbe spoken in Ashkenazi. There are a dozen of videos of the Rebbe speaking in Hebrew when receiving Israeli dignitaries. So, his spoken Hebrew is well known. He was very fluent of course in that language, it's just that he avoided using it, and if it was necessary to use Hebrew because the guest wouldn't understand Yiddish or English, he did it but in Ashkenazi (the Rebbe was of the opinion that the prononciation adopted in Israel by the Zionists is fake, that's why even when visited by Israeli digniraries, he always sticked to the Ashkenazi prononciation).

    Now, because of the many Baalei Teshuvah and the always growing Chabad community in the medinah, Hebrew (and even Modern Hebrew) is becoming the more spoken language among Chabadnikim. In the medinah, even in Kfar Chabad, hearing Yiddish is a rarety, and almost all the sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe has been translated in Hebrew now. But in Crown Heights, Monsey, Paris or Antwerp, we still use Yiddish, Boruch Hashem!

  6. B"H

    As soon as I hear a Chabadnik talking in perfect Yiddish, I know that he is a "real" Chabadnik. Meaning, born into Chabad with a longer Lubavitcher family tree and tradition.