"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.
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
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
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,
Author Judith Rotem
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
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
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
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
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
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