Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Literary Day in Israel

Today’s activities in the Tel Aviv area involved two favorite spots: Halper’s Book Store and Old Yafo.

Halper’s is described as “a labyrinthine trove of over 50,000 titles.” Although most of them are in English or Hebrew, there are quite a few French and German books as well. While in the two chains that control most of the Israeli market, Tzomet Sfarim (Book Junction) and Steimatzky, current English language paperbacks sell for about 23 dollars (82 shekels), I walked away from Halper’s with a full shopping bag for 142 shekels (about 40 dollars). For bibliophiles, it’s a treat to walk through the aisles and aisles of books and come upon old favorites, interesting titles, shelves of fantasy and science fiction.

 From Halper’s, it was onto Old Yafo, which is a short drive along the Mediterranean.


This seemed a particularly appropriate time to visit. During the High Holiday season, Jews perform the ritual of Tashlich, where the previous year’s sins are ceremoniously cast off into a natural body of flowing water. Living inland, my community usually goes to a neighbor’s backyard and uses a small fish pond. Inspired by New Year at the Pier, April Halprin Wayland’s Sydney Taylor Book Award winner; and given the quality and quantity of my sins, I needed a larger venue. So I stood by the sea and recited the prayers, hoping for “my mind to be at ease,” and to be “granted the privilege of being joyful with regard to serving God” as I cast all my sins into the depths of the sea.
On the afternoon of Yom Kippur, the Book of Jonah is read. Rabbi Menachem Posner (at gives two reasons for this: the story of Jonah teaches us how no one is beyond the reach of G‑d's hand. Just as Jonah's endeavor to escape G‑d's providence was unsuccessful, so, too, we are incapable of eluding divine justice for transgressions we may have committed; and on a more uplifting note: G‑d spared the people of Nineveh although He had already decreed that they would be destroyed because of their evil ways. This teaches us that no matter our past behavior, G‑d's benevolence and mercy awaits us if we only repent full-heartedly.

Jonah tried to flee. “He went down to Jaffa and found a ship bound for Tarshish” (Chapter 1, verse 3). The Old Yafo area is replete with history, evidenced by the archeological finds dating back to 7500 BCE.

The harbor area has many shops, galleries and restaurants, included The Old Man and the Sea.

While they do not serve marlin (or shark), the Hemingway title also seemed relevant to the season with its symbolism (albeit Christian) and its themes of persistence and pride.

After meeting some “Real Cats of Israel,” it was home to start reading my treasures from Halper’s.

 Happy Reading!

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