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Hymn to the Bible

Nava Semel

"Abraham and Sarah, David and Michal, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, Ecclesiastes and Mishael, and other biblical characters peek out with a wink and a smile from the pages of the Bible. They are vibrant folk, driven by impulses and desires, subject to whims and to the twists and turns of fate. They sin and they go astray – just like us. From the distance of time, one can hear the dramatic pulse of the biblical stories and discover that the characters – the well known and the less known – still have something to say to us today. Is the human condition in the 21th century any different to that of antiquity? Not necessarily.

Lilith demands equal rights for women; Esau goes into couples therapy; Michal is jealous of her brother Jonathan, who is in love with her husband; Sarah is a xenophobe and erects a fence between them and us; Solomon seeks one love from among a thousand women; Vashti is a battered wife; Mishael’s parents are separated from their son who goes on a coming- of-age trip in the East, and the young Ecclesiastes leads a protest movement in the city square. Everything is still happening today, or in Ecclesiastes’  words, “There is nothing new under the sun.²
In writing this book, I wanted to go back to the tradition of dramatic rhyming verse, to popular Jewish balladry, and to the biting cabaret of Berthold Brecht. The words wave hello to earlier times, and particularly to the poet-playwright Itzik Manger, a father of Yiddish theater, whose stage works have been with me since my childhood with all their dizzying theatrical and literary spectacles. Perhaps the time has come to acknowledge these underground sources that feed our Israeli identity, and to create a renewed partnership with them."

From Nava Semel's preface to Hymn to the Bible.


A rich and marvelous collection. Daring and un-prettified contents. The innovations that this book heaps upon us are manifold. The rhyming is sophisticated, delightful, but also demands contemplation and investigation, with its dazzling use of the different layers of Hebrew, both ancient and modern. Nava Semel’s attitude to the heroes of the Bible is intimate, at eye-level, and unbiased. This is a living, and enriching depiction of characters who are intertwined with God, with others and with themselves. She gives a voice to the silent and to the silenced. Her book is replete with high points. Each poem provokes thought, soul-searching, empathy.

Author Judith Rotem


The humanistic- ethical- Judaic world outlook finds expression anew in each poem … Such literary interpretation has a very long tradition in Hebrew culture and literature, and this book adds an important, challenging and original layer of bricks to that magnificent structure. The humor in some of the poems infuses them with a peaceable tint. I only hope that this book finds an echo in the hearts of a good many people and that it will perform its humanist-Judaic work upon them.

Prof. Nurit Govrin


A refined and unique book, abounding in love of Hebrew and love of Hebrew culture.

Poet Navit Barel

A really intriguing book … The book takes the Bible stories to places that are daring even to the secular reader.
Ruvik Rosental, Maariv NRG


Hymn to the Bible is something of a refreshing breeze …You have to read the book and to take pleasure in the beauty and the purity of the words of the poems … It’s fun to tuck into the Bible’s legends, into the mythology-history-philosophy from which the Bible is molded, when it is all served up in so intriguing a dish.
Alice Blitental, News 1   


Well worth reading … A different way of looking at the Bible.
Attila Somfalvi, Ynet

An author blessed with talents. A particularly original work. A surprising book.  Modern, contemporary interpretation of the Bible that gives it topical significance and removes it from the sphere of religion. A remarkably courageous book.

Smadar Perry, Kol Israel 2


An enchanting book, in both content and form. Rare in these parts. Original and modern interpretation, refreshing … A thought-provoking book. Very highly recommended.

Anat Dolev, Kol Israel


A very interesting book, full of up-to-date, topical interpretations. The Bible speaks to Nava Semel and she speaks back to it.

Iris Lavie, Kol Israel


An excellent book … A book that does not paint the people of the past in a prettier way, but rather depicts them as human beings.

Shmuel Shay, Kol Israel


A pleasure to read. I read it, and can never get enough of it. Nava Semel has been blessed with a talent for getting deep into the reader’s soul. A treasure of a book.

Retired judge Hadassah Ahituv-Hartman



Title Hymn to the Bible
Author’s Last Name Semel
Author's First Name Nava
Language(s) Hebrew
Genre poetry
Publisher (Hebrew) Even Hoshen
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2015
No. Pages 107
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Mizmor La-Tanach
Representation Represented by ITHL
"An original, extraordinary book" The Brenner prize committee
Congratulations to Noga Albalach, winner of the 2018 Brenner prize for her book "The Old Man (Farewell)".
Residencies in Vienna and Salzburg
In co-operation with KulturKontakt Austria, the Austrian Federal Chancellery offers 50 residencies in Vienna and Salzburg for the year 2019. Applications can be submitted for literature, literature for children and young adults and literary translations. Please note the deadline of September 30th, 2018.
Call for applications English speakers: Stay culture in Paris (deadline: June 12th, 2018)
Details in the attached link
Congratulations to Sami Berdugo and Shoham Smith, recipients of the 2018 Bialik Prize, one of the most prestigious literary prizes in Israel!

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!
The fourth German-Hebrew/Hebrew-German translation workshop November 4th to 10th, 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: November 4th 2018 until November 10th, 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".

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