I talked the Husband into attending the Jerusalem International Book Fair today instead of trying to go to the gym. It wasn't hard -- he too is a book lover and as he's still recovering from bronchitis from the Jerusalem Crud we've all had, strolling around the Book Fair seemed preferable to doing something painfully aerobic at the gym.
So after walking the Boy to his ulpan and downing cafe hafook at Kalo's, we called the Best Cab Driver in Jerusalem and got a lift over to Binyanei Ha'Uma, the big convention center near the central bus station where the Fair is going on this week.
I learn something every time I ride with Yossi, the cab driver, who now insists that we speak Hebrew all the time. He knows the Husband's Hebrew is pretty darned fluent, but that mine is still pre-gan level: I might be able to limp through a conversation with a three year old, assuming you could find a three year old patient enough to put up with it. "You must speak Hebrew, Sarah," he tells me. "If you don't use what you learn in ulpan, you will never speak Hebrew and you will always use English." So every time we're in the cab, it's not just a ride, it's a tutorial. Yossi very patiently corrects the same mistakes I make over and over, and tells me not to worry, the language will come in time. Of course, Yossi speaks Hebrew, French, English and two dialects of Arabic fluently, so I always feel like an idiot trying to keep up with him.
The day was beautiful. Today was one of those warm, balmy spring days where all the blossoms have opened on the trees, the sunlight caresses you and the breeze is just a kiss of relief from the heat. So of course, we spent most of our time indoors. Go figure.
The Convention Center had stall after stall of book sellers throughout its many halls on the first floor. A surprising number of these stalls sold books in English. Titles were also available in French and Russian. There may have been books in other languages as well which I missed seeing, but that's because I was starting to get a bit overwhelmed at the sheer amount of books. I've been in public libraries with fewer choices.
Steimatsky's, the chain of English and other foreign language books in Israel, had a huge stall with great prices (25% off); there were books for bibliophiles; the latest edition of Encyclopedia Judaica which I lust for but cannot afford unless I want to forego having a kitchen in the new house; there were beautifully written and illustrated Haggadot at two different stalls, as well as books for every blessing for every holiday and kiddush in Jewish tradition.
There was even a stall containing books on the history and traditions of the Druze. Unfortunately for me, there was only one book in English, although several in Hebrew and many in Arabic. The rep, who spoke fluent English and Hebrew, asked me if I spoke Arabic. I got a grin and words of approval for my answer: "Not yet."
There was a stall for Carta with every conceivable map of Israel's regions as well as illustrated 'coffee-table' atlases and historical books. Not to be outdone, Michelin had a stall also, stuffed with maps and books for the travelers amongst us.
There were lectures being given in two separate locations but by the time we stumbled across them, we were overladen with too many books, the Husband complaing that we should have brought the agulah (shopping cart) to carry them home. We took Yossi's cab home (another Hebrew lesson for me although the two guys also just gabbed a bit), unloaded our loot and as soon as I finish this blog entry, I'm going to go curl up with a good book.
Go check it out. The Jerusalem International Book Fair is only here every other year. Take advantage of the stupendous choices and good prices. Hit the link in the title above to find out about the lectures, schedules and events.