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In first, Israeli female authors outnumber male

According to the National Library of Israel’s 2021 report, women wrote 52% of Israeli Hebrew literature, a rise of 10 percentage points compared to 2017

Illustrative: View on July 6, 2011 from inside the National Library of Israel that holds more than 5 million books, and is located on the Givat Ram campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
Inside the National Library of Israel, July 6, 2011 (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

More women than men wrote and published prose and poetry works in Hebrew last year, the National Library of Israel’s 2021 Annual Report showed, a first since the library began compiling statistics.

The Tuesday report showed that the Israeli literary scene is seeing a post-COVID boom, bouncing back after a 2020 slump.

Overall, 7,344 books were published in 2021, 94 percent of which fall under the categories of prose and poetry. Women wrote 52% of original Hebrew literature overall, and 54% of Hebrew-language poetry. In 2017, women only wrote 42% of original Hebrew-language literature.

Almost 92% of books published in Israel in 2021 were in Hebrew, followed by 4.8% in English, 2.2% in Arabic, and 0.6% in Russian. Eighty-six percent of books published in Israel in 2021 were published in their original language; 69% of books translated from other languages were originally written in English, followed by French (6%), German (6%) and Arabic (3%). The remainder were translated from 36 other languages.

Only 165 Arabic books were included in the National Library of Israel’s 2021 report. That was a decline from the 214 in 2020, which saw lower overall numbers than previous years. The library attributed this to the rise in digital publishing in Arabic, as opposed to print.

Other trends include a rise in biographies, particularly about “non-public figures,” as well as children’s books and comics. The number of books published relating to the humanities and social sciences also declined compared to 2019 levels.

Illustrative: a woman reads with children in 2013. While once lagging behind their male counterparts, female authors have outpaced men in publishing Hebrew-language literature. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

The number of printed nonprofit and government reports has also declined since 2019, primarily because these organizations have moved toward publishing reports online as opposed to in print.

In accordance with the 2000 “book law,” any book published with more than 50 copies in the State of Israel must send two copies to the National Library. This applies to books written in any language, including translations.

The library’s annual report is published every year in advance of Hebrew Book Week, a festival celebrating Hebrew literature, which begins this year on June 15.

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