The Top 10

The Most Influential People in Israeli Literature

1. Professor Menachem Perry, 70, Scholar, editor and publisher

2. Yaron Sadan, 59, chairman, Book Publishers Association

Yaron Sadan is leading the struggle for the enactment of legislation to protect books and literature and a determined, unrelenting fighter against powerful forces. At the end of 2011, he resigned as managing director of Am Oved Publishers after an 11-year tenure, but agreed to stay on as chairman of the Book Publishers Association an unpaid position to get the legislation passed. If the law is passed in the months ahead, it will be in no small part thanks to his adamancy.

3. Avi Shumer, 57, CEO, Tzomet Sfarim

Avi Shumer is the CEO and owner of Tzomet Sfarim, a book publisher and bookstore chain, in partnership with the publishers Kinneret Zmora-Bitan-Dvir and Modan. His accomplishments are legion, and even his opponents find it hard not to like him. Shumer changed the book market in Israel, for good and for ill. Before Tzomet Sfarim came on the scene, the book market was dominated by the Steimatzky bookstore chain. Shumer broke its exclusive control. Publishers also breathed a sigh of relief at the time: suddenly there was competition and they had a choice (or so they hoped). However, the battle between the two chains lurched out of control and was fought at the expense of publishers and writers and they started to fight back.

4. Iris Barel, 57, CEO, Steimatzky

Iris Barel was appointed CEO at Steimatzky following the bookstore chain's acquisition by Markstone Capital. She rules with a high hand, and the chain remains Israel's biggest bookseller. Publishers need Steimatzky to survive and treat Barel with kid gloves, though she herself took off the gloves in her brawl with Tzomet Sfarim. She has often declared that Steimatzky's prices will always be lower than those of Tzomet Sfarim. The real price is paid by the publishers. Last January, the Antitrust Commission decided to file charges against Steimatzky and Barel, subject to a hearing, for allegedly violating the Antitrust Law. The suspicions deal with alleged unfair competition and breaches of merger terms.

5. Yigal Schwartz, 59, researcher and editor

Prof. Yigal Schwartz established the Department of Hebrew Literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and was its first chairman. He also founded Heksherim, a research center for Jewish and Israeli culture, which is the repository for the archives of the writers Amos Oz, Aharon Appelfeld, Ruth Almog, David Avidan, Yocheved Bat Miriam, David Schutz, Nissim Aloni, Shulamith Hareven, Zelda and S. Yizhar. He is presently the head of the creative writing track, which he founded, at Ben-Gurion University. In his capacity as an editor at Kinneret Zmora-Bitan, he has edited works by Appelfeld, Sami Michael, Lea Aini, Gabriela Avigur-Rotem, Ruth Almog and Shimon Adaf. 

6. Etgar Keret, 46, writer

In addition to being a well-known and highly regarded author whose works have been translated into many languages, Etgar Keret works in a range of fields and cooperates with writers and artists around the world. He has written screenplays and directed films, writes for children, has published graphic novels and, above all, seems to have impressively broken through the glass ceiling "Israeli" writers encounter. This year he has already taken part in two artistic projects, helped establish the Story Vid project, which fuses literature with new media, and he is a candidate for the 2013 international Warwick Prize for Writing. Keret may also have discovered the world's best anti-aging agent: Salman Rushdie recently termed him the voice of the new generation.

7. Noam Partom, 27, poet

Noam Partom represents the new generation in Israeli poetry. The drowsy poetry of wretchedness seemed to have become passe, until Partom appeared on the scene and charmed a large audience. Her poetry is provocative, yet coherent. Her uploads of herself reading her work on YouTube have gone viral. Partom is a superb performer in a world in which it is no longer enough to be a recluse. She also has a de rigueur scandal to her credit. She was invited to a Tel Aviv high school, where a literature teacher asked her to recite a provocative poem that made her feel exploited. Her report of the event on Facebook stirred a furor. Her first collection, "Setting the Water on Fire," was published by Xargol/Am Oved.

8. Uzi Weill, 48, writer

The Uzi Weill scandal was born on the Internet. Last April, Weill offered his readers, via Facebook, a chance to get an autographed advance copy of his new book if they helped finance its writing. Many people responded, as they viewed the offer as a type of protest. Weill had planned to raise NIS 55,000 but ended up with NIS 128,000. In short order, the donors discovered what Weill had never concealed: his book appeared under the imprint of a major publisher, Modan, which is part of the Tzomet Sfarim group. Moreover, the promised advance edition never appeared. The public was outraged. One byproduct: the spotlight was focused on the possibility of fundraising and self-publishing, as well as on the phenomenon of self-deception and witch hunts. 

9. Dolin Melnick, 45, head of the culture and arts division of Mifal Hapayis
(National Lottery)

 

The culture and arts division of the National Lottery coordinates all the cultural support and assistance the institution provides, and also sponsors the Landau Prize in art and the Sapir Prize in literature. Melnick's first challenge, after being appointed director of the division in 2010, was to rehabilitate the Sapir Prize following the scandal involving Alon Hilu. Hilu was declared the recipient of the award, but it was then revoked. Melnick met the challenge and restored the award's prestige. She has also involved publishers, writers and academics in the division's work and consults with them. Whether she takes their advice or not, she makes them feel they belong. 

10. Shira Hefer and Uriel Kon, both 37, owners of Zikit publishing house

Zikit is a marvelous publishing anomaly. Shira Hefer and Uriel Kon founded it with the aim of being small and smart. Their literary taste diverges from the mainstream and they espouse an ironclad doctrine: uniform prices, no deals, sales in the private bookstores and a desire to renew a literary discourse. In short, an off-the-wall publishing project that was doomed to failure but which this year demonstrated the unbelievable: There is an audience for complex, innovative literature that does not come cheap. Their publications among them (in Hebrew translation) Christopher Morley's "Parnassus on Wheels," Thomas Wolfe's "The Lost Boy" and George Moore's "The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs" have made the bestseller lists of the private shops. And that is truly a miracle.

Kobi Kalmanovich
Daniel Bar On