Friday, May 11, 2018

The International Writers Festival 2018

I ventured into Jerusalem on a beautiful May afternoon, and I was on triple duty. I went to attend one of the sessions at the International Writers Festival. Since it is held at Mishkenot Sha'ananim, I was able to do a test run on a new book by Tali Kaplinski Tarlow, ScaVentures Jerusalem: The Experiential Guidebook.  I also got to have coffee with one of my favorite authors, Anna Levine.

Tali was nice enough to answer a few questions. Originally from South Africa, she " came to the tourism industry from the world of education having been a teacher, curriculum developer and informal educator for around 20 years" before she founded Israel ScaVentures.  The first tour game was the Nachlaot Scavenger Hunt, and from the outset she applied her “ScaVenture method”, and it brought a fresh approach to learning the story of a neighborhood in an experiential way. A ScaVenture can take around 50-100 hours to prepare, it involves extensive historic research, interviewing people, perhaps going on a tour or two, going into the area and getting lost (her favorite part), figuring out the unique story that the area needs to tell and writing up the material in a way that gives the area it’s voice. Tali will integrate the roles of the group members, which is a way of engaging each person directly with the area and the experience.  There is a tab on the website for "proposal." I thought it was where you could "propose" a potential tour, but it's actually a very cool and romantic way that couples get engaged -- looking for clues, and "popping the question" at the appropriate moment.

I reviewed the guidebook before I took the bus into town. There are five routes to explore: the Old City, the First Station, Machane Yehuda, Har Herzl National Cemetery, and Mishkenot Sha'ananim/Yemin Moshe.  After reading a little bit about the history of Jerusalem and how to use the book, I went to the appropriate pages of the book, which is color-coded for each route. Each chapter includes a short introduction, preparation tips, directions to the area via public or private transportation, loads of information about what to see, and lots of places to record thoughts or attach photos later one. Over 30,000 people have participated in ScaVentures.  For more information, you can visit the website. we go!

Since I was on my own, I played all the suggested ScaVenture roles: tour guide, mission manager, prophet (the reader of biblical verses, quotes and other important primary sources), navigator, and detective (also the photographer). Mishkenot Sha'ananim means "peaceful dwellings," but the neighborhood was originally named the Courtyard of Judah Touro, since he provided the funding for the new neighborhood. But the area is closely associated with Moses Montifiore, who arranged to buy the land and built the famous windmill to grind wheat (which didn't quite work out, but that's a whole 'nother story).

The area is still quaint and quiet and includes an auditorium where cultural events are held and a music school. I was able to visit the Windmill and "the short building," which are just two of the eight stations included in the guidebook, but I am anxious to return and explore more of the sights.

Meeting with Anna Levine is always a pleasure, especially in a secluded little cafe. We talked about her two books that are coming out in the near future:  Scout's Honor, a PJ Library Our Way pick about a trip to one of the many caves in Israel (about 15 minutes from where I live!) where bravery and quick thinking will come into play. Then there's All Eyes on Alexandra (Kar-Ben, August 2018), the story of a migrating crane that can't quite stay in the "V formation." Anna went to a writing workshop "inspired by biblical heroines."

I attended "Saving Anne Frank Exhibition Opening and Conversation between Author Ari Folman, Graphic Illustrator David Polonsky, and Deakla Keydar." The title reminds of  a stupid library question: "Who wrote The Diary of Anne Frank?". Ari Folman is the editor of this edition, but an ingenious one. He and Polonsky worked together on Waltz with Bashir, the 2008 Oscar-nominated film where "an Israeli film director [Folman] interviews fellow veterans of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to reconstruct his own memories of his term of service."

Quite frankly, I have seen many versions of the diary, and so many books about Anne and her family, including graphic novels, that I was skeptical of "the graphic diary." But I was totally blown away by this project. Ari Folman painstakingly went through the entire diary and changed it from prose to conversations. David Polonsky did an amazing job with the graphics, creating detailed and nuanced images of everything from the neighborhood in Amsterdam to the personalities themselves, based on their photographs. This is a graphic novel that has bite and humor and puts the "graphic" in graphic novel with creative layout and great use of color and text bubbles.

Even more interesting, is that the Anne Frank Foundation allowed this version to be published. All of Anne's unkind comments about her mother are included and laid out "graphically," with a scene depicting Anne as uncaring if her mother should die. The "lady parts word" is also included. This is not a comic book, and both editor and illustrator stressed that even though Anne wrote the diary when she was twelve to fourteen (until the family was caught in hiding), it is not a book for children. They also spoke of putting a lot of the content in context, one has to know that a panel with the inhabitants of the Secret Annex dreaming of different foods is taking place during wartime and rationing and in hiding.

Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation (Pantheon) will be available in English on October 2, 2018.

I saw some "Real Cats of Jerusalem" before I took the bus home:

Happy Reading!

1 comment:

  1. Always a joy to meet and chat with you! I am in awe at how much you managed to pack into your day. Must check out both ScaVentures and the Anne Frank exhibit. Sarah Blau's workshop was inspiring.


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