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Jewish Journal

Jewish Book Week in London

Pavel Pustelik /Cardiff

February 24, 2012 | 3:55 am

For a week, London is becoming more Jewish than it usually is. You can spot groups of people talking in Hebrew and crowds are heading to the King’s Place in London. The Jewish Book Week is in full blossom!King’s Cross station has became a landmark of London after the tremendous success of the Harry Potter series. Apart from that it opens the way to the King’s Place that hosts the Jewish Book Week this year. This cultural hub is undoubtedly one of the top places on the hype places in London. The decision to celebrate there the 60th anniversary of the festival was just perfect.

While travelling to London I was wondering what to expect. A book fair? Plenty of people taking pictures of Umberto Eco and Deborah Lipstadt or a rendez-vous arena for the young Jewish people.
Essentially all the expectations have been fulfilled. The event is something more than just a book fair, but you still can find piles of books related to different aspects of Jewish life as well as spot real
bargains. Given the fact that many of the lectures are addressed to the younger audience the halls are filled with laughter and phone numbers are being exchanged. This makes the space more chilled out.

For me seeing the huge interests of people was incredibly uplifting.
Visitors from all walks of life have been genuinely interested in what Judaism is, what are the peculiarities of the Jewish life and naturally what is going on in the Middle East and in Israel. It seemed that the trauma of Holocaust is remembered but fortunately does not dominate the whole atmosphere making it tough for the new-comers. The organizers provided something more than just a place to discuss the issues related to literature where those who read a lot can sit together and comfortably compare and contrast philosophical paradigms. The event opens up discussions about global problems as well as culture, politics or education. This makes the Jewish Book Week gathering an audience that goes beyond Jews.

One of the highlights was a talk with two authors that focus on the problems of coexistence of Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Mediterranean area.  David Abulafia from Cambridge University and
Philip Mansel offered tremendously interesting talk on how peaceful the coexistence was and in what ways we can benefit from that. The room was full and two gentlemen have been delving in them peculiarities of Smyrna and Tel Aviv.
It has been almost possible to hear the pebbles rolling down the streets of Beirut and smell the spices used in Palermo. Paradoxically, a lecture on peace ignited a discussion on intolerance and violence against different people. ‘Pessimism is always so trendy in the Jewish milieu’ commented the chair,  Felipe Fernández-Armesto, a Jew-lover and appreciator. Everybody was laughing and nodding…

Since the Jewish Book Week is based in London, there must have been an event focusing on the city. Rachel’s Kolsky speciality is going deeperin understanding the urban texture of the city. She unveils, digs more profoundly than the others and reads the stories of people who used to occupy neighbourhoods of London. Even though, the prosecutions of Jewish people have been taking place in the UK many times, there are still visible signs of their presence. Mostly conserved in the London’s Jewish Museum.

The time in King’s Place has found a new dimension. Being surrounded by many eager explorers of the Jewish life is an experience par excellence. Having an opportunity to engage is priceless and finally meeting like-minded people makes you think that there are still so many things that can be done!

If you are in London or somewhere around, do not hesitate to come and see what is in the agenda. The Jewish Book Week continues till February 26th! However, if you cannot come, make sure that you take advantage of the podcasts that are being regularly uploaded on the event’s webite: http://www.jewishbookweek.com/2012/programme.php

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