Despite political hostility, Israeli books read throughout Mideast

Despite the tense relations between Israel and most other Middle-Eastern countries, Israeli literature is gaining in popularity across the region.

Books written by Israelis are sold and read in countries such as Iran, Lebanon, and Pakistan, Netanel Semrik, founder and CEO of the Contento De Semrik publishing house, told Yedioth Ahronoth.

Israeli books are being translated and distributed in Midest countries such as Iran and Pakistan. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

According to Semrik, some of the books distributed in Muslim countries were written by IDF fighters or focus on Israeli security. For example, the book "Bundles of Hope" by Yoram Katz, translated into Arabic, about an Israeli fighter aided the wife of a Lebanese fighter to undergo artificial insemination in Israel during Lebanon War. This book sold dozens of copies in Iran, Lebanon, and Pakistan.

Another example is the book "Butterflies of Hope" by Talia Ganel Joya, about two children named Amir, one an Arab and the other a Jew.

When Semrik runs into publishers from Muslim nations at book fairs, "it's immediately clear to them that we're from Israel—so it starts with a deep breath, continues with a handshake and a thorough examination of the books we represent, and eventually, like with any other agent or publisher from a friendly country, it reaches a direct conversation, up to the point that they even feel comfortable enough to speak against their government and about their desire to live more openly and democratically."

Contento De Semrik has actually opened a special department focused on translations into Persian.

"Judaism and Islam are so close. What God gave us over the years is more or less the same," said one Pakistani publisher publishing Semrik's book in Arab countries.

"Let's just say that I don't think I will be able to retire from this profession thanks to the royalties received from the hostile countries, but this trend is moving and progressing and that's the fascinating thing about it,” Semrik said.

Posted on June 17, 2014 .