The National Library of Israel's Bustan fellows went on a creative writers' retreat during the month of July, 2017.
Bustan is an innovative program that aims to foster connections among writers from different communities in Israel and to support their creation of new work. The residency program combines time for uninterrupted writing with professional workshops as well as opportunities to explore the National Library's collections.
In feedback given anonymously, one of the fellows had this to day about the retreat:
"I feel like soil in whose depths many seeds are dormant and suddenly, after years of drought, it rains. This retreat for me was a magical world full of inspiration, ideas, unique people, a cross-cultural encounter - a wonderland that provided everything I was in need of. Thank you."
The Bustan fellows attended a retreat away from the Library, worked together, and engaged with other writers and authors, including Anne Germanacos, who has been involved with National Library and its projects for some time.
This is what the National Library means to her:
"While visiting the Library in July of 2015, I was seated in a cold room with manuscripts. I knew I shouldn’t ask, but couldn’t resist: May I touch this notebook, once touched by Kafka? I was given permission and put a finger to the page, thinking I should use a silver yod. While not, generally, a materialist, Kafka’s words and their embodiment on a page are, to me, holy.
Words shape, fly, detonate. They carry human consciousness mind to mind, continent to continent, century to century. In a way, any library is transgressive: All those material representations of words bound. It’s my foolish, impossible hope that the masses of words contained in the Library’s multifarious collection will fly loose from their containers and ignite the world with their wisdom."
We were proud to have Anne Germanacos, the fellows, and everyone else who makes Bustan possible.
The Bustan Fellows:
Muhammad Bakria, (b. 1968) lives in Jerusalem. Bakria graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a dual degree in Arabic Language and Literature and Theatre Studies. An accomplished journalist for the past 20 years, he also writes poetry and short stories. Bakria submitted for consideration his second poetry collection, A Soul Carried by the Wind (Arabic, 2016).
Jury notes: Bakria has shown his ability to break through conventional modes of expression and ordinary linguistic frameworks. His rich and multi-layered writing demonstrates a nuanced command of the language and its intricacies. His work touches upon folk legends and religious symbols, showcasing a broad familiarity with diverse cultures.
Roi Bet Levi (b. 1976) was born in Ramat Gan to parents of South American descent. Educated in Buenos Aires and Ramat Hasharon, Bet Levi now resides in Tel Aviv. He has worked as a journalist and screenwriter and is currently head of communication activities at the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Studies. His novel Imagine a Mountain (Hebrew, 2014), which he submitted for consideration, won the New Literature Prize in Memory of Isaac and Tova Wiener.
(picture: Moti Kikayon)
Jury notes: At its core, the novel describes a complex and touching relationship between a father and son. Their connection unfolds through the son's sleuth-like and surprise-filled quest to find his father, who he was supposed to meet at the airport. The author's deep humanism and a wicked sense of humor also add to the pleasure of reading this book.
Jawdat George Eid, (b. 1970) is a writer, poet and academic from Nazareth. Eid earned his Doctorate of Education degree (Ed.D.) from the University of Derby in England in 2016. He also holds a master's degree in social work and a teaching certificate in psychology. Today he lectures in the fields of education, psychology and social sciences. Eid has published numerous children's books as well as collections of short stories, poetry and prose. He has won numerous prizes, grants and letters of recognition in the areas of literature, social work, and education. Eid submitted for consideration a poetry collection entitled, Virtual Space and Place (Arabic, 2014).
(picture: Raik Cazmuz)
Jury notes: Through perfect command of language, observation of existential states, and touches of the surreal, Jawdat Eid manages to create virtual worlds that veer on the border of delusion, yet which are anchored to reality, thereby creating a meaningful reading experience. The writing breaks through traditional modes of expression and raises many thoughtful questions regarding social and philosophical ideas.
Jonathan Fine, (b. 1984) is an author and translator based in Tel Aviv. Fine has published essays and literature reviews in Haaretz and Ynet. He is the recipient of the Harry Hershon Literature Prize from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The collection of short novels which he submitted for consideration, Honorably Discharged (Hebrew, 2013), is his first book. The book won the Culture Minister’s Literary Award for 2015.
(picture: Moti Kikayon)
Jury notes: Human growth and maturation is central and vital to literature, yet dealing with this subject can easily result in an unripe work that lacks depth. Jonathan Fine, already in his first book, manages to avoid this trap by instilling tenderness and sensitivity in his protagonists. The stories in this collection "remember" always that they are dealing with the strengths and weaknesses of real people.
Eytan Freier-Dror was born in Jerusalem. Freier-Dror studied musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and composition at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music. The Fingers on the Hill (Hebrew, 2015), his debut collection of three short novels, won the Sapir Prize for best new work in 2016. This is the book he submitted for consideration.
(picture: Yotam Jacobson)
Jury notes: The novel The Fingers on the Hill maintains a delicate and rare balance between the need to create emotional and narrative tension and the eschewing of dramatization. The heroes of the story find themselves in complex mental states and their states of consciousness are often exposed to chaos. The author's impressive literary and psychological sensibilities hold promise for significant literary achievements in the future.
Yosef Ozer (b. 1952) was born in Jerusalem and grew up in northern Israel. In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, Ozer embraced a more religiously-inclined Jewish identity. He studied education and literature at the University of Haifa and worked as an educational director in ultra-orthodox Jewish education until resigning with profound discontent. Ozer is the author of several volumes of poetry, and twice the recipient of the Prime Minister Levi Eshkol Prize for Literature. Ozer submitted for consideration his collection of poems Jezreel Valley – Jerusalem (Hebrew, 2013).
Jury notes: The poems carry a profound personal mark, yet they are particularly communicative. They are graced with intelligence and simplicity, maturity and playfulness. In this way, the poetry manifests its desire towards engagement and commitment, and at the same time, a liberated state of mind.
Atheer Safa (b. 1984) of Baqa al-Gharbiyye holds a master's degree in Arabic Language and Literature from Tel Aviv University. She wrote her master's thesis on the philosophy of ugliness in modern Arab literature. Her work spans the fields of informal education, literary criticism, language editing and translation. In 2013, Safa received a writing grant from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC). She published her first novel Tweet (Arabic) in 2014, and submitted it for consideration. The novel was nominated for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
Jury notes: Atheer Safa's book is written in a rich lyrical language and effortlessly blends many fields of knowledge and interest. The philosophical touches in the book illuminate different characters and their worlds. Her book captures the tension between reality that burdens and shackles the creative soul, and the artist's desire to break free from that reality.
About the Program
The Bustan: Writers' Encounter program invites applications from writers who have published at least one book of prose or two books of poetry in the last five years in Hebrew and/or Arabic. The fellows will devote themselves to a month of writing, enrichment workshops, opportunities to explore the special collections of the National Library of Israel, and public cultural events.
The first cohort of Bustan fellows will take part in a four-day introductory retreat in the beginning of July, and will then be in residence for four weeks at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem. The participants of "Bustan" will receive a one-time scholarship of 10,000 NIS and accomodations in Jerusalem for the duration of the program. Following the residency, the Bustan fellows will participate in cultural programs at the Library and throughout Israel.