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Isra Isle

Nava Semel

So what are we Jews doing in the chaotic Middle East when we could easily have been living peacefully in our state "Isra Isle", near the Niagara Falls in America? This isn’t sheer fantasy. It could have happened!

Behind Nava Semel’s novel lies a true historical episode. In 1825, Mordecai Manuel Noah, an American journalist, playwright and diplomat, bought Grand Island, downriver from the Niagara Falls, as a place of refuge for his people. But no Jew answered his call. Noah became a footnote in history and the option for a Jewish state in North America was washed away to oblivion by the tide of Zionism.

Nava Semel has created an alternative history, a “what if” option. She takes upon herself a complex and challenging task, and stimulates new thinking about questions of memory, Jewish/Israeli identity, the attitude to minorities, women in top political positions, and the place of cultural heritage.

Isra Isle comes at a time when Israel and Zionism are under constant attack. It shakes up all the old clichés about who Israelis are and what they were meant to be and uncovers the refreshing face of an alternative existence – not only in the past but in the future.

Genre-bending triumph… Poignant and funny all at once… Semel has surely succeeded, for Isra-Isle—with Jessica Cohen’s sparkling translation, which delivers all the wit, lyrical power, and tender warmth of the Hebrew original—offers as haunting and thoroughly entertaining a story about the ancient and modern quest for home and belonging as one could hope for.

Jewish Book Council

Singular, thought-provoking novel.
Publishers Weekly

Tantalizing... Sophisticated and surprisingly witty.


Originally published in Hebrew in 2004, the English edition (beautifully translated by Jessica Cohen) offers an engrossing, if at times confounding, narrative about Jewish history as it might have been. 


Semel takes on a vast, complicated and challenging task… The cultural mix between Native Americans and Jews as a real, captivating option… [and] the rebirth of the Zionist story is an enriching encounter.
IsraIsland connects original [Biblical] chaos to our contemporary state in a skilful, original and sophisticated way. 
Nava Semel has written a conceptually fascinating novel that one reads with bated breath. 
Galei Zahal Radio

Semel IsraIsland
Title IsraIsland
Author’s Last Name Semel
Author's First Name Nava
Language(s) Hebrew, English
Genre novel
Publisher (Hebrew) Yedioth Ahronoth
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2005
No. Pages 269 pp.
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Eesrael
Representation Represented by ITHL


English: Simsbury, CT, Mandel Vilar Press, 2016
Congratulations to Barabara Harshav for the 2018 PEN Medal for Translation!
The prize is given to a translator whose career has demonstrated a commitment to excellence through the body of their work. Barbara Harshav has been translating works from French, German, Hebrew and Yiddish for over twenty years and has currently published over forty books of translation. Among the many Hebrew authors she has translated: Yoram Kaniuk, Agnon, Yehudit Hendel, Yehuda Amichai and many more.
The Ministry of Culture and Sport announced the names of the winners of the Arik Einstein Veterans Artists Prize.
A prize of 50,000 NIS was given to each of the 21 artists who worked and are still working to promote Israeli culture in various fields -Music, dance, theater, plastic arts, cinema and literature. In the literature category the winners were Ronny Someck, Jacob Buchan and Shlomit Cohen-Assif. Also, Anat Masiach is among the recipient of the prize for debut literary works. Congratulations!
Congratulations to Ronit Matalon, the recipient of the 2017 Brenner prize for her book 'And the Bride Closed the Door". And, congratulations to Amir ziv, the recipent of the first ever Brenner prize for debut novels.
Ronit Matalon's book tells the story of Margie, a young bride, who shuts herself up in her mother's bedroom and declares that she won’t get married. Her family gathers at the locked door, not knowing what to do. Amir Ziv tells a story that begins as an apparently routine correspondence between a prying citizen, secretly in love with his neighbor, and a conscientious municipal clerk, and developes into an uncovering of a great underlying drama.
The fourth German-Hebrew/Hebrew-German translation workshop April 29 to May 5, 2018 Beit Ben-Yehuda, Jerusalem
After workshops in Berlin, Jerusalem and Straelen, the workshop will return to Jerusalem this spring. This workshop will focus on the participants translations. These are unfinished translations that have not yet been published. These will be sent to all participants. The workshop is open to 10 participants and is intended for literary translators with experience and publications. Workshop facilitators: Anne Birkenhauer and Gadi Goldberg Prerequisites: At least one published translation Duration: Sunday, April 29, 2018 until Saturday, May 5, 2018 Location: Beit Ben-Yehuda, 28 Ein Gedi St., 93383 Jerusalem Participation fee: Participation (Accommodation and meals) is free of charge. Travel / flight expenses will be refunded. For more details and for the documents required for submitting application: Anne Birkenhauer, and Gadi Goldberg,
Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's "Waking Lions" is one of the 100 notable books of 2017 of the "New York Times".

Congratulations to Zeruya Shalev and Shifra Horn for receiving the 2017 Adei Wizo Prize.

Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's "Waking Lions" is longlisted for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award
Ayelet Gundar-Goshen's "Waking Lions" is longlisted for the 2018 International Dublin Literary Award! The books on the longlist are selected by 400 libraries worldwide. Titles are nominated on the basis of ‘high literary merit’ as determined by the nominating library.
Yitzchak Mayer's personal website goes live
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MHL - New webzine starting soon!