By Gaia Regoli
On May 12, the 7th International Writers Festival in Jerusalem opened, which, this year for the first time, is happening in collaboration with the Book Forum, previously referred to as the Book Fair.
The opening at the YMCA was held in both Hebrew and English, as many internationals from 40 different countries came to Jerusalem especially for this event.
At the beginning of the ceremony, a quartet from the Jerusalem Music Centre (JMC) was invited on stage to perform a piece by Mozart. Afterwards, the City Major, Moshe Lion, was invited on stage to officially welcome the participants to the festival, i.e. writers, publishers and book lovers. In fact, the main aim of this festival is to bridge writers and publishers and create dialogue between the different groups of people. Furthermore, a representative of the jury was also invited on stage to present the jury’s decision in regards to the winner of the Jerusalem prize: Joyce Carol Oates, an American writer who deals with the struggles of the human experience.
After that, the Major and the director of the Writer`s Festival met on stage to award Ms. Oates, who then held a speech focused on freedom of word: “Without freedom there is no art”, she says. Besides, in her speech, she mentioned the deceased writer Amos Oz as well. This is because we are now celebrating the 80th birthday of Amos Oz, who has recently passed away. Oates’ words are inspiring and intimate as she tells the public about her personal perception of books. In particular, she even claims that when she was younger she wanted to be a book better than a writer and this was due to the fact that “there will always be a copy of a book that can live the shelf life”. Books, as opposed to humans, last forever.
Moreover, the JMC quartet performed another piece by Mozart which was then followed by the tribute to Amos Oz held by his daughter, Fania, together with the State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and the interviewer. The death of Oz represented “the loss of a friend and a cultural hero”. Only sweet and sincere words were used when referring to the deceased writer. Shai said something that impressed me: “It is rare to remember where someone was when they read a book. But I remember exactly where I was when I read Oz’s”. To sum up, many quotes from Oz’s books were mentioned and one major debate was the one on equality between Jews and Arabs. Fania strongly believes in peace and in the power of words both to inspire and bring hope but poison as well. In a nutshell, we should believe in the power of words and, as Fania said, in the fact that “hope is action”.