Page 12 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
b rough t to fru ition because o f the de te rm ina tion o f a few rabbis
who deem ed the rep r in tin g o f the T a lm ud in the coun try th a t
had sough t to ann ih ilate the Jew ish people and had b u rn e d Jew ­
ish books to be a symbol o f the will to rebu ild Jew ish life.
Despite the severe shortages o f p ap e r and materials, au tho r iza ­
tion was finally ob tained fo r the p r in ting o f an ed ition th a t went
to 19 volumes. Begun in November 1948, it was comp leted two
years later when sets were sh ipped all over the world. Th is
m arked the first time in history tha t a gove rnm en t had he lped in
the publishing o f the Ta lm ud . T h e volumes ca rried on th e ir first
page con tras ting sketches o f camps and barbed wire and palm
trees from the Holy Land — a fitting symbol fo r a work th a t had
accompanied the Jewish people in its vicissitudes over the ce n tu ­
ries.
III.
A new society fo r Hebrew literary research , consisting o f re p ­
resentatives o f the depa r tm en ts o f lite ra tu re o f the Israeli un ive r­
sities and including scholars from ou tside o f Israel, held its first
con ference in Tel Aviv in April 1984. T h e con ference was ad ­
dressed by P residen t Chaim Herzog who stressed the role o f lite r­
a tu re in society and a ttribu ted the decline in the position o f the
Israeli w riter to the inroads o f technology. Yoram Dinstein, rec­
to r o f Tel Aviv University, went fu r th e r and cha rged th a t “from
the People o f the Book
(Am Ha-Sefer)
we are becom ing the People
o f the Land
(Am Ha-Aretz)”
An embattled nation th a t constantly
faces the th rea t o f war, he indicated, could scarcely devote its full
a tten tion to books.
T h e question, “Are the Israelis Still the People o f the Book?”
was pu t into sh a rp e r focus by A louph Hareven in an article by
th a t title in th e
Jerusalem Quarterly
(no . 30, W in te r 1984).
Hareven , who is project d irec to r at the Van Leer Je ru sa lem
Foundation , asked w he the r Israelis can still be said to m ain tain
the “centrality o f the tex t” in the ir lives.
According to the figures cited by the article the last decades
have seen a decline in the num b e r o f books pub lished in Israel. In
1932, d u r in g the Yishuv per iod when the popu la tion num b e red
less than 200,000, 632 books, o r 3 p e r 1,000 saw publication; in
1979, however, 4,331 new books, o r little m o re than 1 p e r 1,000