Words of the Artistic Director

In the days following the October 7 massacre, we debated at length whether to proceed with the International Writers Festival. We were paralyzed by shock and sorrow, our lives upended. Amid such grief and loss, the mere idea of a festival – rooted in festa, meaning celebration – seemed almost inconceivable. After much deliberation, we decided the festival must go on; particularly now, as our soldiers are deployed in Gaza, and as we fight to bring back the hostages, return the displaced to their homes and restore life’s rhythm, it is our duty as cultural ambassadors and book lovers to sustain the spirit. 


With this resolve, and in light of the events, we designed the event program with a deliberate focus on minimizing festivities. Instead, we aimed to create a literary event that can bring our community together and offer solace – an event that will bolster the hope we place in literature, humanity and solidarity, and perhaps even serve as inspiration. We believe that such an event, standing in stark contrast to our current reality, is as essential to us all as the air we breathe. 


Putting the festival together was a challenge – particularly in terms of international author participation. At times, we considered hosting the festival solely with Israeli writers, fearing that few international authors would accept our invitation, or either retract their participation last minute. While Israel’s international perception as an outcast has deepened our cultural isolation, we remained firm in our commitment not to concede. Not only do we oppose any form of cultural or academic boycott, but we also believe that the inclusion of global voices is fundamental to the festival’s identity. Giving up on this would represent a surrender and a severance from our global connections, when it is our belief that literature transcends borders and remains a universal asset in both peace and war.


This year, therefore, the festival will host eight renowned writers from around the world. Alongside Simon Schama, John Irving, Delphine Horvilleur and Mirna Funk, we will welcome Romanian writer Varujan Vosganian, Greek author Christos Chomenidis, and French novelist Anne Berest. The participation of these last three authors is facilitated by a new collaboration with the European Union and the EU National Institutes for Culture aimed at promoting contemporary European literature in Israel.

Of course, we will also host some of our own cherished writers, including David Grossman, who celebrates his seventieth birthday this year, and others like Zeruya Shalev and Ayal Megged (in a joint discussion), Nurit Zarchi and Eshkol Nevo. We are also delighted to welcome three beloved Israeli authors living in the USA: Ron Leshem, Maya Arad, and Ruby Namdar – their participation in the festival at this time is particularly heartwarming. Additionally, we will feature emerging young talents whose voices capture the zeitgeist, enriching our festival with their fresh perspectives.


The festival will open with a literary memorial evening for the October 7 victims, attended by writers, musicians, and members of the bereaved and affected families from Kibbutz Be’eri, Kfar Aza, Sderot, and the Nova Festival, as well as the mother of Staff Sgt. Lavi Lipshitz, who fell in the battles in Gaza. It will close with the launch of “Shabbat, October 7,” a compilation of over fifty testimonies gathered and edited by poets, writers, and theater people, offering an intimate yet expansive, painful and sober view of that harrowing day.


Please join us in celebrating the love of literature and life,

Julia Fermentto- Tzaisler

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