Yossi Klein Halevi wins National Jewish Book Award

Israeli author/journalist’s ‘Like Dreamers’ takes top prize; Sacks, Shavit, Oz also honored

Yossi Klein Halevi (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yossi Klein Halevi (photo credit: Courtesy)

Israeli author/journalist Yossi Klein Halevi took the top prize in the 2013 National Jewish Book Awards, announced Wednesday. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Ari Shavit were also among the winners.

Halevi, a longtime Israeli journalist, won the main award, the Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award, for “Like Dreamers,” which tells the history of Israel through the personal experiences over decades of a handful of paratroopers who helped capture the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War.

In an interview with The Times of Israel when the book came out in October, Halevi explained that the title, “Like Dreamers” comes “from the Psalms, from ‘Shir Hamaalot, hayinu k’cholmim, When the Lord returned the exiles to Zion, we were like dreamers.'” The significance of the title, he said, “is that this [book] is really the story about the fate of Israel’s utopian dreams – the vast dreams that we brought back with us, and that we imposed on this little strip of land filled with traumatized refugees from the century’s worst nightmares. The disparity between the reality that we’ve had to deal with, and the power of the utopian and messianic dreams that we brought home with us, is really in some sense what this book is about.”

Awarded annually by the Jewish Book Council, the awards are in their 63rd annual iteration. This year’s crop included a notable number of non-American winners.

The award for fiction went to Israeli writer Amos Oz for “Between Friends,” which was translated into English by Sondra Silverston. Hebrew University professor Moshe Halbertal won the Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award for Scholarship for “Maimonides: Life and Thought.”

Richard Breitman and Allan Lichtman’s “FDR and the Jews” won the American Jewish Studies Celebrate 350 Award. Phyllis Chesler won in the category for biography or memoir for “An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir.” Michal Smart and Barbara Ashkenas’s book “Kaddish: Women’s Voices” won in the category of contemporary Jewish practice.

In children and young adult literature, the winner was “The War Within These Walls,” written by Aline Sax, illustrated by Caryl Strzelecki and translated by Laura Watkinson. The top prize for illustrated children’s book went to “Hanukkah Bear” by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka.

A full list of the awardees and runners-up is available at the website of the Jewish Book Council.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony on the evening of March 5, 2014 at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan. The event is free and open to the public.

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