There are certain instances when it is not to be counted to one’s detriment to be seen as old fashioned or out of date.
Such is the case is when one considers how many used bookstores a city has. Or for that matter how many small independent new bookshops there are. The type, quality and quantity of merchandise that such bookshops have on offer I believe reveals a lot about a city’s character.
The fact that Jerusalem has over eleven good quality used bookshops with which I am familiar speaks highly in her favour. I am also familiar with five in Tel Aviv though I am certain that there may be more. Offering broad selections of titles in an equally broad price range together they are enough to tempt this writer on each of his trips.
The fact that Ottawa, Canada’s capital, has seen a steady decline of similar stores makes my annual visits to Israel all the more appealing. Residents of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv should revell in the presence of such stores within their midst and treat them as the precious commodity that they truly are.
Just this past week another Ottawa bookshop has announced that it is closing its doors for good. On line sales and a scarcity of interested readers has resulted in a steady decline of clients.
Another appealing aspect of the used book trade in Jerusalem is the proliferation of many titles, which though not rare, are not to be found on this side of the Atlantic. An added pleasure are the many titles in ‘ foreign ‘ languages. Even though at times one may not understand what is written the allure of a massive tome on say early Hebrew manuscripts is undeniable.
On more than one occasion I have purchased lovely older books in Hebrew (which for me is a closed book) in the hopes that by possessing them I might be spurred on to continue in my Hebrew language classes. There is an added bonus should they possess old Rabbinic library stamps and/or marginal notations.
Friendships and lively discussions with other like minded customers are another bonus that comes from frequenting small bookstores. Events such as the biannual Jerusalem International Book Fair are an added inducement to visit Jerusalem should one be needed.
In summation the booktrade in Israel reminds this writer of that which formerly existed in Britain and Canada in the 1960’s and early 70’s. May it continue to thrive as a defining, but often overlooked, aspect of Israeli culture.