A Hebrew version of this article
This article is the sequel to an article , which describes the history of Hebrew SF and fantasy from the Biblical times till the 90s. This one describes the state of Israeli SF and fantasy in the and in and specifically in the various non fiction fields of reference ,alternative science futurism and in various media in recent years
At the start of the 21st century, the State of Israel is locked in an almost apocalyptic battle for its existence. But at the same time, SF and fantasy fields are blooming.
In 2002, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the publication of the book Altneuland [Old New Land] by Theodore Herzl, the father of the Zionist movement (which was first published in October 1902). It describes a trip to the technologically advanced Land of Israel in 1923 in which there is a State of Israel. This book had an enormous influence on the development of the Zionist movement, and was the source of the name of the major Hebrew city, Tel Aviv. In 2002 Herzl’s book was reissued as a paperback by Bavel Publishing.
A number of research studies on SF and fantasy have been issued recently in Israel.
This present author, Eli Eshed, published the book Mada Bidioni Ivri M’kori [Original Hebrew SF] in 1999 (private publication). It includes a detailed bibliographic list, with summaries, of over 300 original Hebrew SF books which appeared from 1892 to 1998.
In 2000 Eli Eshed published Tarzan b`Eretz HaKodesh [Tarzan in the Holy Land] . This describes an industry of original Israeli Tarzan stories published from the 1930s to the 1970s. It includes numerous pictures, and a detailed bibliography of more than 1000 original Israeli stories of the Man of the Jungle, many of which are SF or fantasy. There are stories about Tarzan battling space invaders, and going to other planets. There are stories of horror, monsters, and the supernatural (vampires, mummies, etc.). Some stories tell of Tarzan’s encounters with well known characters such as Flash Gordon (who had many adventures in space together with Tarzan and Boy), Captain Marvel, Dracula, Frankenstein, Doctor Fu Manchu, and others.
In 2002 Eli Eshed published MiTarzan v’Ad Zbeng [From Tarzan to Zbeng] (Bavel, 2002). This book gives the history of popular (pulp) literature in Israel, including SF, from the 1930s. This book, which includes numerous pictures, received considerable attention in the Israeli press, and resulted in Eli Eshed being named “Israeli Author of the Year” by the newspaper Ma’ariv.
Researcher Inbal Saggiv-Nakdimon completed a Master thesis in 1999 on SF in Israel, which surveyed the history of the field in detail, and includes an abstract in English.
Collector Erez Abramovitch (who is also the chairman of the Israeli Society for SF and Fantasy) has for several years maintained and updated a list of all SF and fantasy books which ever appeared in Hebrew (original or translations).
Reuven Kritz is a researcher in fantasy literature who published the book HaMuzar BaSipur HaMuzar [What’s Strange in a Strange Story or the Grammar of the Grotesque] (Pura 1975). This is the most detailed research work in Hebrew to this day (and one of the few) on fantasy genre. It analyzes in detail works by Edgar Allen Poe, E. A. Hoffmann, and Gogol. (Kritz’ work as a fantasy writer is described below.)
An additional researcher in the field of SF and fantasy is critic Orsion Bartana, who has himself written two books of fantasy stories, Sreifot [Fires] (Sifriat HaPoalim, 1985), and HaShaot HaTovot Hen Shaot HaLaila [The Best Hours are at Night] (Ma’ariv, 1994). He has published numerous articles on translated SF, and in 1989 the reference book HaFantasia b’Sifrut Dor HaMedina: Fantasia b’Sifrut HaYisraelit b’Shloshim HaShanim HaAharonot [Fantasy in Israeli Literature in the Last 30 Years (1960-1989)] (Papyrus and HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 1989).
Another outstanding researcher is Elana Gomel, who has for years published research papers, in both English and Russian, on SF in the Soviet Union and in today’s Russia, and on British and American 19th century fantasy. At 2003 Gomel had published in English the book Bloodscrips:Writing the Violent Subject (Ohio State University Press) which deals with the ways narratives of popular culture (including SF) represent and construct the violent subject: the rational murderer, the serial killer and the perpetrator of genocide.
Futurism and Prophecy
In Hebrew, as in many other languages, there is an enormous range of speculative futurism, pseudo-scientific, and “alternative science” literature, which in many cases isclose to SF.
An outstanding example of a “futuristic – prophetic” work is Mordechai Y. Nessyahu’s book Cosmotism (Poetika v’Tovei Sefer, 1997). The author prophesizes an astounding and unique future for the State of Israel, in a universe which the author assumes is filled with alien civilizations. The author proposes a careful, sophisticated, far-seeing use of Jewish tradition whose source is in the Old Testament. These Jewish principles provide a path to the survival of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, who will spearhead the struggle to save human beings from self-destruction through misuse of nuclear weapons and ecological disasters such as global warming. This book is filled with grandiose speculations and fascinating proposals, and in my opinion is one of the most important books to be published in Hebrew in recent years, but which has not received the attention it deserves. The author, Nessyahu, was one of the ideologues of the Labor Party in Israel, and had a major influence on Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and their peace program.
Israeli statesman Shimon Peres published a work of prophecy in 1998 B’Reshit Hadasha [A New Beginning] (Zmora-Bitan), in which he describes a new and better future for Israel and the Middle East, “new” as a result of the information revolution, and peace. In 1999 Shimon Peres’ book Im Herzl L’Eretz Hadasha [With Herzl to a New Land] (Zmora-Bitan, 1999) was published. In this half imaginary book Herzl visits modern Israel and compares it to his utopia as described in Altneuland. Peres’ book includes among other things SF and utopia, and the possibilities of their realization. The current reality as we know is quite different from these predictions. We can describe Peres and Nessyahu as “the last utopians”.
The book of Yigal Arica Ma Tzofen Lanu HaAtid [What’s in the Future] (Aryeh Nir and Modan, 1999). This book was written by a secular expert on Kabbalah, mysticism, and reincarnation, as well as science, who has written several very successful popular books on these subjects. In this book he describes the future in terms of science, technology, society and economics. This is a comprehensive and optimistic book, perhaps the most readable book of its type in Hebrew.
Asher Idan Madrich l’Meah HaEsrim [The 20th Century Guide Book] (Dyunon, Tel Aviv University, 2000). A very optimistic book about the future and the information revolution, by one of the best-known Israeli futurists. It seems that, since the book appeared, much of the optimism found in this book with respect to the information revolution has dissipated.
An interesting futuristic book about the Internet was by an expert in information systems and management, Dr. Niv Ahituv (who was also Vice President and Director-General of Tel Aviv University), whose book Olam L’Lo Sodot [A World Without Secrets] (Am Oved, 2001) foresees in great detail a future world in which all recorded information about any person will be freely available to everyone. In his book he discusses various relevant works of SF.
Sculptor and poet Ezra Orion wrote Pisul Bein-Galakti [Inter-Galactic Sculpture Toward the Third Millenium] (2001). This is a sort of catalog and summary of his sculptural works, and also includes several speculative articles. Orion has been working for years on the idea of sculpture in outer space. He calls it “Sculpture in the Solar System” and “Inter-Galactic Art”. In 1993, using the Mars Rover, he built a sculpture on the surface of Mars. Following a program he sent to NASA, the Rover placed stone upon stone to create a work of art. This work may perhaps disappear from the surface of Mars only after billions of years. This was the first time that an artist proposed building a sculpture on Mars, a program that was actually carried out. Orion calls it “Sculpture in the Solar System”. In addition, starting in the 1980s Orion sent various laser beams into space. This project reached its peak in 1992 as part of the World Space Year. At that time, under his direction, a giant obelisk of energy was sent from laser stations in various countries toward the Milky Way Galaxy. In 2002 he tried to persuade to UN to carry out an additional project of this sort, using even greater power, but he has not yet been successful. He described his astounding artistic and speculative ideas in his books Pisul B’Ma’arechet HaShemesh [Sculpture in the Solar System] (Sifriat Poalim, 1984) and Pisul Alumot Tahalichim [Sculpture with Beams of Processes] (Modan, 2000). All these activities are part of his unusual artistic perception. He is unique in that he believes that there are numerous universes, and that his artistic acts are a way to contact and communicate with them.
Alternative Science and New Age
In recent years a new publisher, Ram, was established to publish all of the works of the controversial researcher Immanuel Velikovsky, who contended that it is possible to explain many events in human history, including stories from the Bible, by collisions of comets with the Earth, from which the planet Venus was formed. This theory had a certain influence on SF, and in its time generated vigorous arguments. The publishing house, which is managed by Velikovsky’s daughter Shulamit, has so far published six books, including some which were never published in any language. One of the books presents Velikovsky’s correspondence about his ideas with Albert Einstein, who was sympathetic to them. The objective is to publish in Hebrew all of Velikovsky’s works, including some which exist to this day only in manuscript.
In Hebrew, as in many other languages, there is an enormous range of “New Age” books, written by people who communicate with God, with angels, or with aliens from around the Galaxy.
The fad began in Israel with well-known Israeli spoon-bender Uri Geller in the 1970s, who contended that he is in communication with aliens, and that he is their representative on Earth. Today Geller supports himself partly by writing SF and fantasy in English, from his home in England.
Particularly noticeable is the fad that has developed in recent years of people who claim they can cure sick people with the “help” of aliens of various kinds with whom they are in communication. This fad received much publicity as a result of the publication by engineer Adrian Dvir of two books Healing Yeshuyot v’Hutzanim [Healing Entities and Aliens] (Gal, 1998) and L’Rapeh im Hutzanim [To Cure with Aliens] (Gal, 2001). In these books he describes his contacts with beings from strange other planets around our galaxy and other galaxies, and the cures that he effected with their help. (Despite the fact that this sounds complete charlatanism, I know very serious people, including the most serious UFO researcher in Israel, Haim Mazar, who claim to have been cured by him.) In his books he also describes other healers in Israel (his competitors) who work with aliens different from the ones he works with. Among other things, he claims to be in contact with the spirit of an American SF writer, but the name he gives is not familiar to me.
UFO research expanded in the 1990s as a result of a wave of reports of sighting of UFOs, and meetings with aliens. The result was the establishment of a society which researched UFO reports, published a periodical, and organized yearly conventions. The high point was a television show with an exceptionally high rating presented by well-known entertainer Dudu Topaz, which was based on the prediction of a “Communicant” that aliens are going to land here that night and present themselves to the public. Thousands went out to the streets to wait for the aliens who were supposed to land to the music of the television program The X-Files. Unfortunately, no aliens appeared. Interest in UFOs has fallen off since then.
Children’s authorTamar Borenstein Lazar published a parody of the whole affair in one of the books of her Kofiko series, which was later made into a play.
UFO researcher Barry Chamish published an interesting book in English which surveyed the history of the phenomenon in Israel, The Return of the Giants (Blue Star Productions, 2000). Chamish is better known in Israel as a leading conspiracy theorist, especially for his contention that the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was organized by members of the government under the direction of Foreign Minister and sometime SF writer and futurist, Shimon Peres.
There are theories that the Old Testament contains the story of the landing of early alien visitors who created human beings. These theories have been very popular in Israel, and several SF books and short stories have been written around them.
An interesting book written from the point of view of a believer in these ideas summarizes the various theories. It is Uri Juda’s HaTanach HaAmiti [The True Bible] (Gal 1999). In the same year Yehoshua Etzion published Sefer HaK’fira [The Book of Heresy – An Interpretation of the Bible] (Tag, 1999) on this same subject.
However, another book, which came out in parallel, represents the “other side”, the skeptical side. This book presents an excellent, comprehensive summary of the negative scientific opinions with respect to the existence of life on other planets. It was written by well-known astronomer Hagai Netzer and popular science writer, Ami Ben-Bassat: Masah el HaTvuna: HaHipus Ahar HaHaim ba’Yakum [Journey to Intelligence: The Search for Life in the Universe] (Yediot Aharonot, 1999).
The talented Moshe Yahalom, a writer of children’s books, comics and popular science (who particularly likes to write about strange scientific phenomenon), published a book about UFOs. Masah b’Ikvot HaAbamim [The Search for UFO’s: In the Eye of Science] (Hed Arzi, 2002) is a comprehensive survey from the skeptics’ point of view, with particular emphasis on the Israeli aspects of this phenomenon. This is an expanded and updated version of a book which Yahalom published a few years ago.
Most UFO researchers in Israel simply report on events which they saw, or heard of here, or heard from reports abroad. The most important Israeli UFO researcher is Haim Mazar, who has published a series of important articles which analyze in a deep, original and serious way the possibility that we are indeed visited by aliens, using serious existing evidence. Unfortunately, Mr. Mazar’s excellent articles have not yet been collected in a book.
Other English articles realated to the subject
A cover by artist Avi Katz to the sf magazin AMEIMAD AASIRI ( the tenth dimension ) in which sf writer Theodor Herzel looks to the stars
origianaly appeared in the magazine LOCUS
(Hebrew versions of the article are here and here )
This article is the sequel to another one, which describes the history of Hebrew SF and fantasy from the Biblical times till the 90s. This one describes the state of Israeli SF and fantasy in the various media in recent years.
At the start of the 21st century, the State of Israel is locked in an almost apocalyptic battle for its existence. But at the same time, SF and fantasy fields are blooming.
Since 1997 there have been some important developments in the area of original Israeli SF. It cannotbe said that more original SF books are coming out than in the past. Original SF and fantasy genre novels are certainly not successful compared to other popular genres such as thrillers and spy novels. From the point of view of most publishers and editors, SF and fantasy remain completely exotic genres that one prefers not to be involved with.
Where original Hebrew genre SF is blooming is on the Internet, where rapidly increasing numbers of stories produce immediate responses from readers. Several writers with real potential are beginning to stand out. However, this review will deal only with conventionally published works
In recent years SF and fantasy motifs have appeared frequently in Hebrew mainstream literature.
An important writer of modern Israeli literature is Orly Castel -Bloom. Her book Dolly City (Zamora Bitan Modan, 1992) gives a surrealistic picture of a future anarchistic Israel. Her book HaMina Lisa [The Mina Lisa] (Keter, 1996) describes a woman who moves to an alternate world. Both have strong elements of surrealistic fantastic post modernism.
Orly Castel-Bloom’s Halakim Enoshiim [Human Parts] (Kineret, 2000) is about Israel in a very terrible near future (really, the present.
The same is true for another book. One of the bestsellers in Hebrew literature in recent years, Yochi Brandes’ L’Chabot et HaAhava [Turn off the Love] (Yediot Aharonot, 2000), deals among other things with the creation of an artificial dog (“Golem”) via magical incantations. However, in the many critical reviews of this book little note was taken of the strong fantastic elements in it.
Another book which included some declared SF stories and joined the bestseller list was Manuela Dviri’s Beitza shel Shokolad [L’uovo di Cioccolata] [Chocolate Egg] (Yediot Aharonot, 2000). Her book included the subjects of Kabalah, and the future of the State of Israel, in the form of SF short stories. It concluded with a story of a cabalist who brings peace and utopia to the world. These stories spoke to the hearts of many readers. (In Israel there is today a very strong interest in Kabalah and mysticism.)
Naturally many SF stories prefer to deal with subjects of current political interest, and with current worries. One such is the fear that the rapidly growing Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community will become the majority and turn Israel into a fundamentalist religious state.
One such book is B’Shem Shamayim [For Heaven’s Sake] (Am Oved, 1998), by Hedi Ben-Amar. She tells the history of a kibbutz family in the years 1997-2010 as Israel turns into a fundamentalist Jewish state.
An extreme example of the use of this fear is by Daniel Dotan, a central figure in anti-religious circles in Israel. His book Anarchia Motek [Anarchy, Honey] (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 1999), is an anthology including several SF stories. One such is “Ahi HaDigitali” [“My Digital Brother”] about a man who creates a digital twin for himself. Another is the extremely dystopic title story “Anarchia Motek” about a future in which fundamentalists control the country in a violent and murderous way, and an underground of anarchist women fights them. This story, filled with blood and violence, more than any other story, is an extreme expression of the various anti-religious fears of an Ultra-Orthodox take-over.
The best book in this genre, inasmuch as it does not go to extremes of hatred and tries to see things from the other side too, is Barry Prigat’s HaAretz HaMuvtahat [The Promised Land] (Hed Arzi, 1999). His book tells of a Jewish ghetto in a future in which the Arabs control Israel and much of the rest of the world. The story takes place entirely in the ghetto, whose residents mostly are completely unaware of the outside world, until one of them runs away and discovers what the surrounding world is like…. This story is reminiscent, and apparently not by accident, of Brian Aldiss’ book Non-Stop (American title Starship).
Surprisingly, there are also SF books from the other side, written by Ultra-Orthodox writers such as Shmuel Argaman and M. Arbel, which present the Orthodox Jewish viewpoint in thrillers with strong SF elements. T’kala b’Hallal [Failure in Space] (2000) by Argaman describes an alternate present in which the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviets continued to the end of the 20th century, especially in space exploration. In these books Ultra-Orthodox heroes with astounding scientific talents, or great bravery, bring victory against the forces of evil. The genre of thrillers has become very popular in Ultra-Orthodox literature.
The Battle with the Arabs
Another topic, which arouses ever-greater interest, is the question of Israel’s relations with the Arabs, and in particular with the Palestinians, a subject which is today at the center of interest in Israeli society. Israeli is at war with the Palestinians as these lines are written. There was a period of several years with little interest in this topic, since it appeared that Israel was movingly steadily toward peace with the Arabs. It is likely that this subject will now develop strongly. Numerous apocalyptic SF stories have appeared recently on the Internet on the possibility of war between Israel and the Arabs.
A somewhat prophetic book was Ketz HaMilenium [End of the Millenium] by Dov Fuchs (1998), which describes how Israeli fanatics try to destroy the Temple Mount (where the Al-Aktza Mosque is located) in 1999, and as a result the entire Muslim world unites against Israel.
Shlomo Eriel’s Diplomatia b’Ma’amakei HaYam [Submarine Diplomacy] (Hed Arzi, 2000) is a political and military thriller about the State of Israel and its battle with the State of Palestine in 2004. More books of this nature can be expected in the near future.
Dystopic and apocalyptic SF books are the norm. For example, Yael Yisrael’s Sof Sof [At Last] (Xargol, 2000) is on a dystopic future Tel Aviv in which reading books is forbidden. It received much critical attention from mainstream reviewers who found the idea astounding, but it cannot be said that it had much new in it as an SF book.
Genre SF Novels
Standard genre SF novels appear which do not deal with Israel’s unique problems, but they are few, and they arouse little critical interest. Isha Zara [Mirror Me] by Shlomo Leniado (Yediot Aharonot, 1999), is about a man who finds himself in a parallel world, and tries to return to his original world and life. This book was written by a well-known doctor and was almost a bestseller, but the publisher insisted that it was neither SF nor fantasy. Another example is Agat Yael Bar’s Masa HaKarkur Over Col Gvul [The Karkur Voyage Overdid It] (G’vanim 2001). An explosion at the start of the 21st century divides mankind into separate bubbles in each of which a different society develops convinced that they are the last survivo
In recent years many books have appeared in Israel which deal with conventional SF ideas, many of them from a unique Israeli perspective.
Assaf Gavron Ice (Gvanim, 1997). This novel by a young and talented author is about a murderous hero and traces his life from the present to a future “Blade Runner”-style world of 2031 in which there is severe ecological pollution. This book with its unusual cyberpunk-style hero received much media attention. The author also won first prize in a competition held by newspaperYediot Aharonot for best SF story with “Mul HaMaim, 2031” [“Against the Water, 2031”].
Shlomo Ben-Tzur Nasoret Milulit [Verbal Fallout] (Halonot 2000). This surrealist SF novel is based on the character and poems of well-known Israeli poet Dan Avidan who wrote many SF poems and even made a SF movie which deals with time travel. The hero of this book is “Davidian”, a sort of astronaut who lives in space in an existence based on the works and ideas of Avidan. The book is full of quotes from Avidan’s poems.
Sariel Shany HaNochri B’Svach HaGada [Stranger in the Tangled Bank] (Yediot Aharonot, 2000). This is about the search for a genetic discovery which can stop aging, and the finding of proof that aliens visited the Earth in the distant past and changed human development. The book contains a whole section which takes place in a future moon colony. This is a gripping merger of thriller and SF.
Binyamin Schiff’s Priha Mukdemet [Early Flowering] (Zmora-Bitan, 2001) is a near future novel in which the Land of Israel suffers an earthquake which separates it completely from the rest of the continent.
Dror Feuer’s Zadok b’Naftolei HaTshuka [Zadok in the Twists of Desire] (Bavel, 2002) is a collection of monologues of an Artificial Intelligence named “Zadok”. Filled with humor, this is written by a man who has worked in the field of Artificial Intelligence.
Ran Kolar HaBoged MiMandagan [The Traitor from Mandagan] (private publication, 2002). Three Israeli youths are magically transferred to an exotic world populated by various aliens, all of them carnivorous. The author is a young sf fan, and this is to be the first in a series.
A Flowering of Short SF Stories
Short SFstories are today far more popular than full-length novels. It’s easier to publish them in the Internet or as anthologies. This has become a big fad thanks to the success of writer Etgar Keret. Many of his imitators include sf and fantasy stories in their collections.
Etgar Kereth is one of the younger and most popular writers in Israel who is the best-known and one of the most outstanding young author in Israel today. His collections of short stories have received acclaim both critically and popularly, and have been followed by a wave of imitations. Keret is a confirmed SF fan, and has written several fantasy stories. In truth, most of his stories have a fantastic, surrealistic atmosphere
Anihu [Cheap Moon] (Zmora-Bitan, 2002) by Etgar Keret, is a collection of short stories, some of them fantasy. This book received critical acclaim and became a tremendous best-seller. Numerous authors imitating Keret’s short story fantasy style have published in recent years. Dozens of short films have been made based on his stories. He has also written comics in both Hebrew and English. Keret is a comics and SF fan who is close to many of the central figures in the Israeli sf scene, and has published in the The Tenth Dimension, the quarterly magazine of the Israeli Society for SF and Fantasy.
The most interesting collection devoted entirely to sf, and one of the best Hebrew sf books ever written, is by well-known author Gail Hareven. Her book HaDerech l’Gan Eden [The Way to Heaven] (Keter, 1999) is a collection of short stories devoted to the possible affects of genetic engineering and cloning on people’s lives.
Another interesting book is by philosopher and sf editor Addy Zemach. His collection Kolot Zarim [Alien Voices] (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 2000) includes some outstanding stories, although most are not sf. One is a description of the creation from the point of view of the god who dreams it. Another is a humorous story which describes the efforts of earth’s representative to the Galactic Council to find something which would symbolize the earth, which he could use in a memorial service for the earth, after its destruction. A very successful story.
Other collections which include sf stories:
Sipur Lifnei HaShena [Bedtime Story] by Eyal Rechter (Gvanim, 2002). A collection of short stories by a young author, many of them sophisticated fantasy in the style of Borges and Calvino, in which reality and imagination intermix. Two stories are particularly outstanding: 1) “Democracy”, about an early Greek city with a very strange government. 2) The title story which is a horror story in the style of Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde about a man trapped for years in a house in which there is a picture of a young and beautiful woman who ages before his eyes. A very impressive story whose content is quite untypical in Israeli literaturea.
Yanon Nir’s Pamayim Kavru et Berta [They Buried Berta Twice] (Modan, 1998) which includes the story “Lo Yadati sheyesh Li Ahot” [“I Didn’t Know I Had a Sister”] about a man whose parents cloned themselves and him. Yuval Yerah’s HaHoshek: Sipurim [The Desirer: Stories] (Halonot, 2000) has stories on a depressing technological world in which new inventions change the lives of the helpless population. Shlomi Sason’s Teivat HaHaziot [The Hallucination Box] (Cherikover, 2000) includes two sf stories: “V’oolai B’chlal Zeh Haya Ken” [“Maybe It Was That Way”], and “Tolaei Shnat 2031” [“The Worms of 2031”].
The following 3 collections are exceptionally good:
Nava Semel Tzhok shel Achbarosh [The Rat Laughs] (Yediot Aharonot, 2001). A book of short stories about the Holocaust, including one which takes place in 2009, and another which takes place in 2099. The latter deals with the question of how the Holocaust will be presented in a distant future in which it is has been almost completely forgotten.
Vered Tochterman Lif’amim Zeh Aheret [Sometimes It’s Different] (Opus 2002). 26 SF stories. One of the best such in recent years, written by a young writer and translator who has stood out among Israeli SF writers on the Internet, and won most competitions for best short story among SF fans. In one such competition her stories won both first and second prizes, raising the suggestion that she be made one of the judges, in order to let someone else win.This book had won the Gefen award as the best israeli sf book of the years 1997-2003.
Guy Hasson, HaTzad HaAfel [The Dark Side] (Bitan, 2002 ), a collection of seven sf stories that were written by the Israeli author in English, and now have been translated into Hebrew. One of his stories had won the Gefen award for original Israeli sf .
A number of books were thrillers which used SF ideas.
Bilha Kalisher-Hazaz Parashat Hartman [The Hartman Affair] (Astrolog, 1999). A thriller about aliens who clone humans, and send the clones back to human society. In earlier years Kalisher-Hazaz wrote two excellent, exceptionally bizarre books of fantasy short stories. One book was Ish Isha v’Sihr Lahatz [Man Woman and a Pressure Cooker] (Ma’ariv, 1995), a collection of ten fantasy stories. One story is about a mentally ill person who keeps six entire worlds in the drawers in his room. The other book is HaHaim Hem Harpatka Smeicha U’Meusheret [Life is a Happy and Fortunate Adventure] (Tamuz, 1998), a collection of 12 fantasy stories, some of them about transitions to other worlds and dimensions.
M. Arbel Sikun M’hushav [Calculated Risk] (Or Zahav, 1999). A computer millionaire tries to take over the world using sophisticated Internet technology. This thriller is the work of an Ultra-Orthodox writer who has achieved great success among Ultra-Orthodox readers. His heroes are deeply observant Jews fighting against various enemies: Arabs, Nazis, or secular Jews.
Shimshon A. Issar Idan HaProteus HaIver [The Age of the Blind Proteus] (Tamuz, 2001). A story of a scientist in Germany who builds an underground city which will serve as a shelter in the case of an atomic war.
Edy Ben-Mayor L’Lo Milim [Wordless] (Opus 2002). A thriller about the attempt of a fanatic Arab leader to take over the world using a device which amplifies telepathic powers.
Particularly outstanding are the SF thrillers of Dr. Emanuel Azmon, a geologist by profession, who writes near future thrillers about the struggle between the West and Arab terror. His books foresee the nuclear development of Arab countries and terrorist organizations. He wrote a trilogy of near future thrillers with the same set of characters. The stories in those of his books that were written several years ago seem to be materializing today, detail after detail, which shivering accuracy.
1. Atom B’Shmei America [Atoms in the Skies of American] (Azmon, 1996). About suicide bombers under Kaddafi’s direction who try to damage the United States with a nuclear bomb. (Also translated to English, published by Azmon.)
2. Galgal HaMazal [The Ferris Wheel] (Azmon 2001). Book 2 of the trilogy. An atomic weapon of a Muslim terrorist organization is hidden in Washington D.C. with the intention of destroying the city.
3. Mah sheh Mutar l’Yupiter Asur l’Shor [QUOD LICET IOVI][What Jupiter May Do] (Azmon, 2002). Book 3 of the trilogy. A thriller in which the U.S. war against Saddam Hussein ends in the apocalyptic geological destruction of the world.
In addition, Azmon wrote Siluk P’solet [Waste Removal] (Azmon, 1998), a near future thriller in which it is discovered that the Palestinians have a nuclear weapon hidden in the Temple Mount. They and Israel threaten each other with a nuclear attack.
An additional book written by Azmon is based on the space program. 55 Shaot el HaYareah [55 Hours to the Moon] (Azmon 2000). The story of an Israeli scientist who participated in America’s Apollo space program at the end of the 1960s.
The following thriller is exceptionally good:
Well-known Israeli writer Dan Tsalka wrote B’Siman HaLotus [Under the Sign of the Lotus] (Xargol, 2002), a near future thriller about an attempt to crown a descendent of the House of David as King of Israel. Dan Tsalka in earlier years wrote the best Israeli young adult SF novel ever written, HaMasah HaShlishi shel Aldeberan [The Third Voyage of Aldeberan] (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 1979), about the trip of a youth to various periods in the Land of Israel’s past, where he meets a robot who has been sent by an intelligence from another star. Tsalka also wrote Milhemet Bnei Eretz biVnei Shahat [The War Between the Children of the Earth and the Children of the Pit] (Am Oved, 1992), an outstanding young adult fantasy about the battle of King Solomon with a race of devils and their leader Ashmadai, a struggle in which the city of the immortals, Luz, becomes involved. This is one of the best original Hebrew fantasy novels for young adults ever written.
For obvious reasons apocalyptic works have had a revival in recent years, and this trend is likely to become even more pronounced.
Hanan Steinhart Kokash Kodesh! [Holy Kokash!] (Sa’ar, 2001). The history of the State of Israel from 1996 to 2013 in which the state first suffers from a rebellion of the Israeli Arabs in the Galilee, and is then conquered by Arab countries.
Gilead Azmon Moreh N’vochim [A Guide to the Perplexed] (Keter, 2001). The story of the future destruction of Israel, as told by one of its former inhabitants.
Amihai Shapira Yom HaDin: Roman Apocalypti [The Day of Judgment: An Apocalyptic Novel] (Halonot, 2002). About the destruction of the state after Arafat violates a peace agreement. At the end of the book the Chariot of Fire of the Prophet Elijah appears over Tel Aviv, and God’s intervention destroys the Arabs.
Savyon Liebrecht Makom Tov LaLailah [A Good Place for the Night] (Keter 2002). A short story collection by one of Israel’s best-known writers. The title story, which ends the book, describes the life of a group of survivors in a world which was destroyed for mysterious reasons, and most people in the world died.
Yigal Tumarkin HaRapsoda shel HaMedusa [The Raft of the Medusa] (2002). A collection of stories by one of the best known and controversial sculptors in Israel. The first story is an apocalyptic surreal story of Israel after an unexplained disaster.
Stories about the Internet
There is a new genre of novels which just five years ago would have been thought pure sf. Today they are realistic novels. These describe relationships which are carried on through the Internet. Some examples: Heder Prati Elza [Private Room Elza] by Yaron Reshef, 1999. N’kuddat Ha-G shel Keren Bird [The G-point of the Bird Foundation] (Tmuna, 2000). Halomot 98 [Dreams 98] by Dana Ben Shaprut Arbitman (Halonot, 2000). All of them describe similar scenarios of people who discover a new world of relationships via the Internet, a world which no one could have imagined four or five year ago…. However, people do not change as fast as the technology. Undoubtedly additional books will appear in this new genre.
SF poetry is a field which is beginning to develop in Hebrew. Well-known Israeli poet David Avidan wrote poems and songs on SF subjects in the 1970s and 80s, and even created a full-length SF movie, Sheder Min HaAtid [ Message from the Future], about time travel, which was based on one of his poems. But he remained an isolated figure.
Since Avidan one can find SF elements in the works of a number of poets. Binyamin Gallai wrote a number of poems dealing with the cosmos. Scientist Avner Trainin wrote poems about early scientists such as Leonardo de Vinci, and in his poems there are references to scientific ideas such as parallel worlds. Scientific elements appear here and there in the works of other poets such as Dan Pagis and Tzvi Atzmon (a scientist by profession). The works of poet Maya Bejarano reveal great interest in certain scientific ideas.
The poet Rahel Chalfi is especially noticeable because in many of her poems there are references both to scientific and SF ideas. She has an especially strong cycle of 12 poems which deal with women witches who were burned at the stake, which is based on research that she did on this subject. This is the most important poetry published in Hebrew on the subject of witchcraft. These poems were originally published in a collection of poems in 1979. They were recently reprinted in a complete collection of all her poetry up to 1999, Mahl’fot HaShemesh [Solar Plexus: Poems 1975-1999] (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 2002).
More than many other poets, SF elements are found in the poems of, and Amos Adelheit, who has published many poems with clear elements of SF, and even published a sort of SF story poem in the journal “Achsav” [“Now”].
. there is Shlomo Shoval, who published two books of poems about SF subjects. His book B’Medinot HaShamyim [Nations of the Sky] (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 1998) is a collection of short prose poems on sf subjects, which seem to be ideas for short stories. The very shortness of these poems leaves the reader wanting “more”.
A second book by Shoval, Lama HaAbamim Tassim b’Derech Clal b’Shlashot u’Madua HaHaizarim Lo Ohavim Lhitztalem [Why UFOs Usually Fly in Threes and Why Aliens Don’t Like to Have Their Picture Taken?] (Carmel, 2000), presents the impressions of an alien visiting the earth, and contains numerous poems and humorous essays.
A recent book of poetry by biologist Noam Lahav Ahavat Navadei HaYakum [The Love of the Wanderers of the Universe] (Halonot 2002) deals with the mysteries of the universe, and uses many SF motifs.
An important Hebrew SF poetry book is a book by Asher Reich, Atid Domem [Inanimate Future] (Keshev, 2002), which came out as this was being written. All of the poems in this collection deal with SF subjects of an apocalyptic character. This is the first time that an entire Hebrew poetry collection has dealt solely with SF subjects.
There is also accelerated development of “filk” songs, songs written and sung by SF fans on SF subjects. These are sung more and more at SF conventions, and also appear on the Internet.
Yotam Reuveni Historia Olamit shel Ahavat G’varim [The World History of Men’s Love] (Sifrut Achshav, 2001). This came out as a CD-Rom rather than as a printed book. Written by a well-known homosexual writer, presented if written in 2024, it is the history of homosexuality from its beginnings, through the persecutions of 2013, and on to the return to new Sodom.
In the past Yotam Reuveni published a sort of fantasy book, Y’mei Dagon [Days of Dagon] (Ma’ariv, 1992), about the destruction of an Israel city “Dagon” by a terrible flood, and the attempt of the government to erase all memory of the city even among the survivors.
There was an impressive growth in the number of fantasy books published in recent years, and a new mini-trend revealed: the use of ancient mythologies and their stories, both in fantasy for adults, and for children.
In current Hebrew literature we find more and more fantasy. Orly Toran’s book N’shikat HaMavet [Kiss of Death] (Keter, 1999) is a sort of thriller in the style of Borges or Umberto Eco, about a fantastic, surrealistic, mysterious city.
Orly Ardon’s HaMuza v’HaMahshev Sela [The Muse and Her Computer] (Carmel 2000) is about a muse that sneaks into a story she is writing about an Israeli caricaturist.
Young author Michael Omer has written two charming humorous fantasy books in the style of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, HaGeographia shel Sof HaOlam [The Geography of the World’s End] (Opus, 1997) and Mitkefet HaBarvaz [The Duck’s Attack] (Yaron Golan, 1999). Unfortunately these humorous fantasies have as yet no competitors in Hebrew literature.
Mythology researcher Tala Bar has dealt for some years with the pagan ideas of writer Robert Graves, and recently published a translation to Hebrew of his book The White Goddess. Her first fantasy book is Mikhal Bat HaMelech [Mikhal – The King’s Daughter] (Halonot, 2001), a historical fantasy in the style of Robert Graves and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Placed in Biblical times, in the days of King Saul and King David, it presents the followers of the religion of the pagan goddess, whose leader is King Saul, and their battle against the believers in a murderous monotheism, whose leader is the evil King David…. Tala Bar has since published a collection of short stories, Venus (Astrolog, 2002), which includes one prehistory story about early man.
Long-time writer and researcher of fantasy literature, Reuven Kritz, published the fantasy novel Sipurei Hoffmann [Hoffmann’s Tales in Tel Aviv] (Gat, 1997), under the pseudonym “Ricky Keller”, partially based on ideas from the books of 19th century German writer E. A. Hoffmann. Recently Kritz’s book Uzzai (Pura, 2002) was republished (it originally appeared in 1983 under the pseudonym “Ricky Keller”). These are the tales of a modern Tel Aviv girl who uses various mystical techniques to go back in time to the Biblical kingdom of Judah, to the days of Queen Atalya and King Uzzaiya, and watch and experience events there.
Moshe Benarroch is a well-known poet. In many of his stories he introduces SF elements. Lucena (Astrolog, 2002) is the story of a 1000 year old immortal who recollects experiences from his life throughout the generations. The book is a sort of panorama of the history of the Jewish people, moving from place to place throughout this period. Benarroch also published a number of interesting SF stories in an earlier collection, HaSefer HaBa [The Next Book] (Yaron Golan, 1997). In one of these stories (“Lav oh HaZikron HaEnoshi” [“No, or Human Memory”]) a man is kidnapped by aliens, and as a result of experiments they do on him he wakes up each morning in the body of another person, with a different identity. A second story (“Bait” [“Home”]) describes life in Tel Aviv in the middle of the 21st century.
Yaakov Keller Migdalim l’Ei-Sham [Towers to Somewhere] (Yaron Golan, 1994-2001). A two volume historical novel about the Jewish people at the start of the 20th century, which includes fantastical sections about a man who takes Jews to a parallel world in order to save them from the coming Holocaust.
Yael Hever Al Ahat Kama v’Chama [The More So] (Carmel, 2000). A family discovers that each member has an exact duplicate that has appeared in some unknown way. They are forced to deal with the consequences of this situation.
Dalit Aurbach Konfetti [Confetti] (Zmora-Bitan, 2002). The story of a fat and ugly woman writer who finds herself in the world of the beautiful and sexy heroine of one of her own novels, of whose life she is jealous.
Gabi Nizan Pereh [Primitive] (Yediot Aharonot, 2001). An intricate and complex fantasy novel connected to “New Age” literature, a mixture of several genres which stars both a Hobbit and various monsters.
Exceptionally Good fantay
One of the the most interesting is Amir Or’s book Shir Tahira [The Song of Tahira] (Xargol, 2001), a fantastic epic presented as if translated from the ancient Tukari language (including an appendix with quotes from imaginary researches on the epic). His book is very reminiscent of actual epics such as the Iliad and the Mahabarta in its description of the relations between humans and gods in a distant heroic past.
A book by controversial artist Roee Rosen, Zeah M’tuka [Sweet Sweat] (Bavel, 2001), borders on fantasy. This is the imaginary biography of a woman, Justine Frank, a surrealist artist, whose work has actual connections with a messianic cult which follows Jacob Frank. Frank (1726-1791) was a mystic who thought that he was the Messiah who would save the world. This book contains passages supposedly from a mystical and extremely pornographic book written by the woman artist, which also served as the basis for a “documentary” film actually shown on Israeli TV on the life of the woman artist.
(Rosen’s book served as the basis for two fantasy stories written by the author of this article, which tied the personality of Frank to the works of fantasy writer H. P. Lovecraft. The heretical sects of Shabtaism and Frankism served as a basis for several other historical fantasy novels in recent years.)
The outstanding fantasy writer today in Israel is Alex Epstein. Epstein has increasingly shown himself as one of the most talented young writers in Israel. His fantasy is very intellectual, strongly influenced by such writers as Jorge Luis Borges, Umberto Eco, and Milorad Pavitch (author of Khazar Dictionary). In the past he published two books of short fantasy stories.
Two New books by Alex Epstein:
Odysseya [The Odyssey] (Keter, 2001). A very personal version of the travels of Odysseus.
Matkonei Halomot [Dream Recipes] (Bavel, 2002). An extremely complex fantasy novel about the creation of dreams. One of the most important literary works to appear in Israel in the last year.
SF and Fantasy for Children and Young Adults
Uri Orlev is the most respected children’s writer in Israel, and received the international Anderson Prize for children’s literature. He is particularly known for books on experiences during the Holocaust, but also published several fantasy and SF books for children. He also translated several of Polish science writer Stanislaw Lem’s books to Hebrew.
Among Orlev’s books are Hayat HaHoshech [Animal of Darkness] (1977) which received both the Anderson Medal and the Zeev Prize for Israeli children’s literature. It is about a child who overcomes his fears with the help of a mysterious animal which may be imaginary, but perhaps is a real being from outer space.
Orlev wrote a pure SF novel, Keter HaDrakon [The Dragon’s Crown] (Keter, 1991) about an Earth colony on another planet whose people have forgotten technology, returned to a Middle Ages life style, and have telepathic contact with dragons (somewhat as in the books of Anne McCaffrey). This is one of the best original Hebrew sf novels for children.
In 1997 Orlev published a wonderful book, Shirat HaLiviatanim [The Song of the Whales] (Keter), about a child who has inherited the ability of his grandfather to enter the dreams of other people.
In 2002 publisher Zmora-Bitan reissued Orlev’s classic fantasy novel from 1979, Kasheh l’hiot Aryeh [It’s Hard to be a Lion], about a boy who turned into a lion, and his struggles to adjust to his new life as an animal.
All these books by Orlev are among the most beautiful fantasy books written in Israel
Veteran writer Shraga Gafni is one of the most productive and best known writers for children in Israel. His fame is especially because of his series Dani Din HaRoeh v’Eino Nireh [Dani Din the Invisible Boy] which is published under the pseudonym “Ohn Sarig”. The series started in 1961, and is the tale of invisible boy Dani Din whose adventures have become more and more fantasy-like over the years; Dani Din even went into space where he fought an invading race of aliens In recent years when “Sarig” wrote a trilogy (1996-1998) in this series in which Dani Din, and his invisible girl cousin Dina Din, fight aliens who are planning an invasion of the earth. Among other things the Dins rescue U.S. president Bill Clinton from the aliens, fight Hamas terrorists, and carry out a space battle in which they succeed in destroying most of the alien space fleet!
. The latest book is Dani Din HaRoeh v’Eino Nireh baJoongel [Dani Din the Invisible Boy in the Jungle] (M. Mizrahi, 2001) (drawings by M. Aryeh), in which Dani Din goes to Africa where he meets an Israeli jungle man.
In recent years Gafni initiated two new fantasy series for children, both under the pseudonym “Ohn Sarig”.
1. Tzviki Matzhiki.
Tzviki Matzhiki v’Harpatkaotav HaMuflaot [Tzviki Matzhiki and his Wonderful Adventures] (Richgold, 1999). This first book in the series is about a child who goes into the world of a television program with his robot who can change shape, meets aliens, and flies in space. The second book in the series is Tzviki Matzhiki b’Taharut HaM’tihot [Tzviki Matzhiki in a Joke Competition] (Richgold, 2000).
2. Gili Gol HaKol Yachol
Gili Gol HaKol Yachol [Gili Gol Can Do Anything] (M. Mizrahi, 1999). This series is about a boy who discovers by himself that he has astounding magic powers. Two books in the series have appeared, and a third is promised.
Tamar Borenstein Lazar
Like Gafni she is one of the most productive and best known writers for children in Israel. So far Tamar Borenstein Lazar has published no less than 330 books! Among others, she published the series Kundasi (in the 1960s) and Lexy (in the 1970s), about boys who solve puzzles that have a SF background. She continues to publish new books in her two long-running and popular series about the adventures of talking monkeys. Kofiko (which has been appearing since 1954 and so far includes about 140 books) is the adventures of a talking monkey who lives with an average Israeli family. Chipopo (which has been appearing since 1960 and so far includes over 30 books) is about a talking monkey who travels around the world and solves detective problems. In more recent books she revealed that the two monkeys did not in fact come from Africa, but are actually aliens from the Planet of the Apes, and are cousins. More and more she is developing a full “mythology” around the alien origins of these classic characters. . This. Her book Kofiko HaHaizar [Kofiko the Alien] (Danny S’farim, 1999) was a parody pf all the novels and shows dealing with aliens and UFOs which were so popular then . She has a third series, Speesee, about an alien child from another planet who takes a pair of Israeli children on trips backwards in time to the period before the establishment of the State of Israel. Recently she began publishing a new fantasy series for children, Majik HaKosem MeHaMahshev [Majik, the Magician from the Computer] (Dani, 2001-2002), about a magician child who comes out of the computer and the Internet. So far four books have appeared in this new series.
Galila Ron Feder
Veteran and productive children’s writer Galila Ron Feder tried her hand in 1999 at a SF series for small children, Mishpahat HaRobotim [The Robot Family] (Modan, 1999), which was illustrated by comics artist Shi Tzirka, about very human robots. Only two books appeared: 1) Robi Mishtatef b’Meirutz M’choniot [Robby Competes in a Car Race] and 2) Rita Rotzah Lilmod Le’ehov [Rita Wants to Learn to Love]. But this series was apparently not successful, in contrast to most of Ron Feder’s series which have dozens of titles.
More successful is her series Minheret HaZman [Time Tunnel] which has been running since 1997. The series is about children who go back in time to various events in the history of modern Israel travel by a time tunnel. In each book they go back to an event in the history of the State of Israel, from the State’s establishment in 1948 up to the bringing of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in the 80s. Since 1997 some 25 books have appeared in this series published by Modan. The first in the series, for example, was Time Tunnel 1: Jerusalem Besieged.
Barry Prigat (popular author of HaAretz HaMuvtahat mentioned above) wrote Millimeter (Danny S’farim, 1999-), a series of thrillers for children about a small girl who uses her magic ring Magick ring which she had stolen from evil scientist Dr. Liliput with which she can frize time as she wish and then she has a great physical power to fight against a mad scientist. In each book, the villain plans to take over the world using a new invention for his Frankenstein-monster-like robotic helpers and with this super power Milimeter had stopped time after time various evil plots aginst the world of Liliput and his robots Frank and Stein as well the attacks of evil children from her class .To date there are 9 books and at least 3 more are planned.
Another series by Prigat is Keren Alpha [ Alpha ray] (Dani, 2000-) which deals with the virtual adventures of a girl inside various computer worlds.also suppose to have at least 12 books.
In response to the great interest which appeared in the 90s with regard to UFOs and aliens, Yoram Mark-Reich wrote a novel for young adults, Mavet b’Rishon l’April [Death on the First of April] (Sha’al, 1997), on the kidnapping of children by murderous aliens).
Anat Kaufman Ta’alumat Karnei HaShemesh [Mystery of the Sun’s Rays] (Yediot Aharonot, 2002). The story of two children who travel out into the galaxy to save the galaxy and the sun’s rays from an evil alien race. This is really pure fantasy which just uses the terminology of SF, and as such is quite good.
Eli Hallali (apparently a pseudonym, since “Hallal” means “space”) has started a space opera series Haizarim B’Hallal [Aliens in Space] about two Tel Aviv children who join an alien spaceship which travels through time using wormholes and comes out against the evil forces of Doctor G. and his cosmic ray cannon: (1) Eima BaHallal [Terror in Space] (Rakefet, 2001). (2) Pahad HaYakum HaNe’elam [Fear of the Hidden Universe] (Rakefet, 2001). (3) Mtzulot HaHor HaShahor [Depths of the Black Hole] (soon to appear).
Yoram Pery wrote a collection of SF and horror stories for children, Gundir HaMa’adim [Red Gundir] (Ahiasaf, 2001). Pery has been publishing sf and horror stories since the 1980s, first in magazines for children, and then in collections. This book contains stories about threatening aliens and murderous monsters. It is part of a wave of horror stories for children in the style of R. L. Stein, whose translated stories have had great success in the Israeli children’s book market.
The following book stands out :
Ruah Enoshit baCochav [Human Spirit on the Planet] (Yediot Aharonot, 2001) by Avi Segal, is the story of an Orthodox Jewish human family which lands on another planet after the Earth has been destroyed, on their desperate attempts to understand the aliens that live there, and on the attempts of the aliens to understand them. This book is particularly interesting, as it is written by a young Orthodox Jewish author. .
Fantasy for Children and Young Adults
Michal Kartis Peretz has started a fantasy series for children, HaAretz sheMitahat l’Shlulit [The Land under the Puddle]. The first book was HaMasa HaGadol [The Great Trip] (Lilach 1998), and the second El HaTzafon uv’Hazara [To the North and Back] (Lilach 1999). The series is in the style of the classic Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. Children from our world fight the forces of evil found in a fantastic world under a puddle entrapped by weird and strange tree roots.
There are two excellent fantasies for children which deal with the interaction between magic powers and technology in the modern world. One is Dabl Yu Dabl Yu Azazel [Double-U Double-U Azazel] by Nurit Yovel (Yediot Aharonot, 2000), an Internet fantasy for children. The other is HaMechashefa v’Disket haEimim Shel Tamar [The Witch and Tamar’s Horror Diskette] by Aviva Hagi (Yediot Aharonot, 2000), a science fantasy for children.
Yona Tepper Sheva Avnei N’sichah [Seven Princess Stones] (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 2002). A fantasy story about a Chinese girl who travels in a China in which there are dragons and talking animals.
Noma Shiloh HaMalach Sheli [My Angel] (Shiloh, 2000). A boy travels to the planet of the angels.
Tami Shem Tov Rak Galia Roah Otam [Only Galia Can See Them] (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 2002). About a girl who discovers that she has tremendous parapsychological abilities.
Galia Shenberg HaDelet shel Poli [The Door of Polie] (Beit Ohr Vilnai, 2001). A sophisticated fantasy story about a boy who reaches a parallel world controlled by the Egyptian gods, who also have an influence on our modern world.
The Best Children’s Fantasy Books of Recent Years
Shin Shifra Alilot Gilgamesh [Adventures of Gilgamesh] (Am Oved, 2000). An excellent retelling of the story of Gilgamesh, written by a woman who is both a poet and a well-known expert on early Mesopotamian culture. This is the ancient epic tale of the legendary Sumerian King, Gilgamesh, who searches for the secret of immortality in an ancient world of gods and monsters. This book received both the Zeev Prize for Children’s Literature, and the international Anderson Award. A few years ago Shifra translated this ancient epic itself from the original Akkadian language. This is undoubtedly the outstanding fantasy book for children to come out in recent years. (Note: several other Gilgamesh versions have come out at various times in Hebrew, but none reach the level of this book.)
Dani and Uri Karman HaMifltzot she Shinu et HaHistoria [The Monsters who Changed History] (Modan, 1999). A humorous book filled with illustrations. This is an alternate history in which monsters change the face of events from the history familiar to us. This is a sort of continuation of the authors’ previous book Sefer HaMiflotzot HaShalem [The Complete Monster Book] (Ma'ariv, 1991) which describes the numerous different kinds of monsters who live in an underground world. Dani Karman is one of the best known illustrators of children’s books in Israel (he illustrated many of the books mentioned above), and Uri is his son.
Best Children’s Illustrator
Probably the foremost illustrator in Israel both in popularity and productivity is Arye Moskovitz (who signs his works M. Arye). Moskovitz has done many thousand of books over a period of more than 50 years, perhaps more than any other illustrator in history. His illustrations for Gafni’s Dani Din series, Borenstein Lazar’s series Kofiko and Chipopo, as well many other famous children’s series and books, are consider definitive, and are part of the collective memory of almost all Israelis. Moskovitz is the best known Israeli fantasy illustrator for children (among many other subjects).
While the comics field is not well developed in Israel, there are some outstanding creators, of which one of the best is Uri Fink
Fink, a dedicated SF fan, regularly introduces into his comics SF scenarios and parodies based on such series as Star Trek and X-Man, as well as original ideas of his own.. He creates humorous comics, but is also a big sf fan. He has done a series of humorous super-heroes. SuperShlumper is a short hero, dressed in pajamas, who fights various ridiculous threats from outer space. Hartzulei HaHalal [Space Hartzuls] is a parody of Star Trek. Fink’s best work yet is Profil 107 [Profile 107], a sort of alternate history of Israel in which super-heroes aid the Israeli government to achieve its political objectives.
His book Zbeng La’Mchashef HaMathil [Wham to the Beginning Magician] (Modan 2001) is a wild parody on the Harry Potter series in which Fink’s standard characters from his Zbeng [Wham!] series, a group of bizarre high school students, play the characters from Harry Potter. In addition to Fink there is also a group of comics artists known as “Actus Tragicus” who work together with popular author Etgar Keret (mentioned above) and often create comics with an sf or fantasy flavor. However, they publish almost exclusively in English.
Fink had published a comic book in English, FINK. In this book he deals satirically with the current situation in Israel, but also includes a story in which Captain Kirk battles his own his starship Enterprise which shows clear signs of turning into a smothering Jewish mother.
Recently in 2003 Fink had joined forces with this writer Eli Eshed on a new book and Hero THE GOLEM the hero of long runing comics series in a alternative state of Israel.
Another excellent SF comics work is the comic book by artist Dudu Geva, Rav Sha’anan Neged B’no shel Godzilla [Mighty Sha’anan Against the Son of Godzilla] (Ma’ariv, 1993). This wild humorous comic book tells of the battle of an unfit Israeli superhero against a family of dinosaurs that threatens to destroy the Earth after they took over a nuclear base on another planet. This is one of the classics of Israeli comics.
Illustrator Shai Tsirka is one of the outstanding comics illustrators in Israel, together with Fink and Geva, but he does not avoid putting his Orthodox Jewish religious beliefs into his work. In his new book Masah HaTzaid shel Babah [Babah’s Hunting Trip] (Modan, 2001) his usual hero “Babah”, a man of the Mishna and the Talmud (a sort of Jewish “Astrix”), goes hunting for various fantastic animals mentioned in Talmudic tales, such as the “shamir” and the “leviathan”.
Other Outstanding Comics:
Harpatkaot shel Zoë [The Adventures of Zoë] by Dan Hofrat and Ofrah Amit appeared in the magazine “Masah Aher l’Yeladim” [“A Different Voyage for Children”] from issue 21 in December 1999 to issue 45 of December 2001, in 25 parts. These are the adventures of the girl Zoë on the isle of Crete who discovers that the ancient civilization of Crete stills exists underground. There she aids the good-hearted Minotaur (who has the head of a bull) in his struggle against King Minos and his evil followers. The story ends somewhat disappointingly when the Minotaur goes into the depths of the sea to meet with Poseidon, King of the Sea. The adventures of Zoë and her friend Zoom continue from issue 47 with a new story by Hofrat and Amit in which the two are sucked into a well-known painting by Claude Monet, and there meet the painting’s figures, and the painter himself. This second story has great potential for the future because of its strength of imagination.
Comics in “Zombit”
Some very sophisticated SF comics have appeared in the computer magazine “Zombit”. This magazine for computing and computer games has always devoted special space to SF. Avner Friedman, who at the age of 15 founded the Israeli Society for SF and Fantasy, got his start in “Zombit” writing for its special section on Star Trek. (Avner is now a pilot in the Israeli Air Force.)
Another figure who stood out in “Zombit” was comics artist Koren Shadmi, later Uri Fink’s assistant in the “Zbeng” series, who illustrated one of the stories in Fink’s Profil 107 [Profile 107]. Shadmi stands out as a writer and illustrator of complex adventure stories with a SF background. In “Zombit” number 9, a special issue devoted to comics, Shadmi began a new long comics story in color, “Gavish” [“Crystal”], about the world in 2025. The story stopped for no clear reason, and in its place a new and more complex story began, “Ice” (no connection to the SF novel of this name by Assaf Gavron), about a battle between two alien races on Earth, in which a hero by the name of “Ice” finds himself involved. Shadmi also published a parody in “Zombit” of the TV series The X-Files, called “T’kuim b’Afela” [“Stuck in the Dark”] (the name is a pun on the Hebrew name for The X-Files series, Tikim b’Afela [Files in the Dark]).
Another interesting story that appeared in “Zombit” was “Pearl Harbor”, which began in issue 52 in 1999. The author was Sh. Koren. This complex and twisted story as about a young woman who fights a satanic intelligent computer. The surprising end has the forces of evil victorious, with the woman declining into an ideal life in a virtual reality. A very sophisticated story.
Avi Katz is a SF and fantasy illustrator. He does the covers for the magazine of the Israeli Society for SF and Fantasy, “HaMeimad HaAssiri” [“The Tenth Dimension”], and did the covers for the translations of Douglas Addams’ books in Israel. Katz also did a SF comics series for children, “Virtuela”, about the adventures of a girl in a variety of fantastic virtual worlds inside a computer. But the series, which appeared in a magazine called “Comics”, died with the magazine.
Other Comics Items
The first part of a new series written by Aviv Ohr and illustrated by Eran Aviani, Arinaa (Komikum 2002), appeared recently. This is a Tolkien-style story about the battle of the forces of good against the forces of evil, in a world of men and elves. The story is well-drawn, but the content is conventional. However this is a return to the almost-lost tradition in Israel of serious adventure tales such as those that were written and illustrated by Pinhas Sadeh, Asher Dickstein, and Giora Rotman. Let’s hope that this book presages a new wave of such traditional comics.
In parallel to all this, comics fan and collector Alon Itzkowitz has prepared a CD-Rom of older Israeli comics which are almost impossible to obtain today, from the decades of the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s. In this way he has preserved comics which would otherwise be unavailable.
Pita Morgana – HaYakum baPitah [The Universe in a Pitah] (2001), is a musical album which tells the story of a rock group kidnapped and taken to outer space by aliens. The creator is Nir Yaniv, who also maintains the Internet site of the Israeli Society for SF and Fantasy. He also plans a SF radio play based on this album. Although several dozen copies of this album have been sold at SF conventions, it has not yet found a commercial producer. Nir has since created and sung a variety of songs with SF content.
Israeli theater rarely puts on plays with a SF or fantasy character. AT 2002 there were two outstanding plays, one SF and one fantasy.
Atom by Matti Golan. A play about a future in which Ultra-Orthodox Jews use atomic weapons against the Arabs. This play stimulated a contentious controversy between secular and Orthodox Jews in Israel.
HaBri’ah [The Creation] by Yosefa Even-Shoshan. A fantasy play about Middle Ages poet Shlomo Ibn Gvirol who creates a woman golem. The golem falls in love with him against his desires, and he is forced to destroy her.
Earlier, in 1993, Even-Shoshan wrote a different version of this play called Keter Malchut [Crown]. In that same year she also wrote a play for children presenting a more conventional view of the story of the Golem of Prague, based on a story by Bashevis-Singer. In 1991 she wrote a play about devils, HaShed HaAharon [The Last Devil], based on another story by Bashevis-Singer.
Alpha v’Omega [Alpha and Omega] (2001). This is an original fantasy opera. The libretto was written by poets Dudi Manor and Aneh Harman, and the music by Gil Shohat (who proposed the original idea). The plot is based on a series of engravings by Norwegian artist Edward Munch. It presents a fantastic story of the creation of the human race. The story is nihilistic and tragic, and quite different from the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden. The story is of the first two humans; one of them, the female, has sexual relations with a variety of animals who can both think and talk, and from these relations the modern race of humans was formed. This opera was impressive in the power of its imagination.
The play Sefer HaJoongel [The Jungle Book] (1996), directed by Hanoch Rosen, was written by Ephraim Sidon, a well-known writer of comics and humor. It is based on Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book about a boy who grows up among wolves. The jungle boy was played by child actor Tom Avni, who became a big star in Israel, with a fan club and all. Avni appeared in a film with SF elements, Super Boy b’1998 [The Magic Kid], written and directed by Hanoch Rosen, about a boy who receives super powers and fights evil. Sefer HaJoongel will be performed on stage again this year.
Another interesting play for children was a 1999 version of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days.
In 2001 the play HaMelech Arthur v’Abirei HaShulhan HaAgol [King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table] by Yaron Kafkafi was produced. This play displayed a three-dimensional hologram of well-known actor Dudu Topaz playing the magician Merlin. This was a special fantasy version which, according to the producers, was intended both for adults and children, but it failed.
AT 2002 for the first time in many years, a children’s SF play was produced. Tzi Pi Havera MiCochav Aher [Tzi Pi, Friend from Another Planet] (2002) was written by Avi Gilead and directed by Avi Dor. It stars actress Tzipi Shavit (a frequent star of children’s plays) playing the cheerful alien who helps the residents of a quiet neighborhood fight an evil businessman who wants to tear down their homes to build high-rise office buildings.IT CONTINUE AT 2003.
Sf and Fantasy in Movies and TV
There are only a few sf and fantasy FILMES IN Israel for budget reasons.
Howewer some were made.
A number of short student films have had sf and fantasy subjects. Director Eitan Bin Nun made films based on stories by Edmond Hamilton and Alexei Panshein (1989-1990). Yariv Gever, well-known director of filmed commercials, made the films Guf Zar [Strange Body] (1987) about people who exchange bodies, Zar baIr [A Stranger in Town] (1981) about a lonely vampire visiting Haifa, and Shalom l’Mhasel [Hello to the Liquidator] (1987) about a future, violent, Israel.
In addition several short films were based on fantasy stories by Etgar Keret. More stories by Keret have been filmed than by any other author. The best of them was Amodu [Freeze!] (1995), directed by Uri Marcus, about a young man who can freeze people, and force them to do his bidding.
Klara HaK’dosha [St. Clara] (1995) is a full-length movie which takes place in the near future and depicts a girl with supernatural powers.
In 2001 a new film was shown by Eli Fulman Made in Israel takes place in a future in which a peace treaty has been signed between Israel and Syria, and there is a joint hunt after the last Nazi criminal. Recent events in this region have made this film seem even more fanciful
TV also produced some original sf. The most outstanding was Hallalit [Spaceship] (1998), a pilot for a comic series which was never made, about an Israeli spaceship crewed by humans and aliens. The ship travels in space to search for the Lost Tribes of Israel, starting with the planet Mars. He’almut [The Disappearance] (2000) was a six-episode mini-series thriller about people trying to contact aliens. Domino (1998) was an interesting TV film directed by Uri Sivan and written by well-known Israeli writer Limor Nahmias, as part of a TV series Short Stories about Love. The story is of a woman sent back in time in order to change her past and save a love romance; but in return she must give up a few years of her life….
In 2001 director Uri Paster created a series called Ajima about a martial arts warrior in a fantasy kingdom. This will also be a series for “Fox”.
At ICON, the annual Israeli sf and fantasy convention, they showed the pilot for Bugoiders, an Israeli produced English-speaking animation film about bugs from outer space that invade the Earth. The pilot was written by editor and sf fan Eli Herstein.
A pilot was made for a fantasy television series HaMehkar [Research] which unfortunately was not accepted, but was shown in a special showing in a movie hall. Directed by Shahar Arieli, it is about a student, who, as part of a research project, creates an entire world, our world. The series was intended to show the development of this experiment and the battle of the researcher against a student by the name of Natasia (“Satan”, by reversal of the letters) who specializes in the destruction of worlds.
There is a comic Israeli television series Shemesh [Sun] which has been running for five years, which occasionally has a SF or fantasy episode. This is because one of the regular writers for the series, Robby Duanis, is a SF fan.
Fan Activities – SF and Fantasy
In recent years the Israeli Society for SF and Fantasy [ISFSFAF] has been very active. ISFSFAF organizes three conventions a year, in cooperation with Star Trek fans and Role-Playing fans. ICON, during the Succot vacation in the fall, is more dedicated to SF. Fantasticon, during the Pesah vacation in the spring, is for fantasy. This past summer they held Fan.Con dedicated to fan activities. ISFSFAF is active on the Internet with a very large site in Hebrew which contains hundreds of articles, many of which deal with SF and fantasy in Israel (some written by this author), others on futurism written by futurist and editor Dr. Aharon Hauptman (who edited sf magazine Fantasia 2000 in Israel in the 1980s), other articles are written by biologist Gal Haimovich, by Raz Greenberg, who is an expert on sf/fantasy films in general and especially on Japanese animation, and by Dr. Amnon Stupp, astrophysicist and climate researcher. The site is regularly updated and maintained by musician Nir Yaniv.
Since 1996 ISFSFAF publishes a well-printed fanzine, HaMeimad HaAssiri [The Tenth Dimension], today edited by Dotan Dimet. Today it is a real magazine, with color pages, with original stories and articles, plus translated material from The Magazine of Fantasy and SF.
Since February 1989 the photocopied fanzine CyberCozen, edited by Aharon Sheer, has come out monthly, never missing an issue. It includes primarily sf book and film reviews, articles, and commentary, mostly in English, but some in Hebrew, and an occasional very short story.
The Star Trek fan association,Starbase972, publishes a fanzine edited by Lee Eden.
The Role Playing fan association publishes the fanzine Gargoyle. There is considerable activity in role playing in Israel. They have their own society which organizes annual conventions. Many of the role playing games used come from outside Israel, but there are also original games written by local fans. The role players are also active on the Internet. Among the many active members are Dotan Dimet, mentioned above, and Yossi Gurevitch, who is a historian, an expert on the Middle Ages, and an expert in the field of wizardry.
In September 2002 the first issue of a glossy new sf and fantasy short story magazine was issued,Halomot BAspamia [Castles in the Air]. This was created by members of the very active and creative sf Internet community in Israel, and includes the best stories of its members.
In parallel, a new ISFSFAF prize was introduced at the last ICON convention, the Geffen Prize for the Best Original Israeli Short Story. The prize is named after Amos Geffen, who was the first person to translate modern American sf into Hebrew (in the 1970s!), and one of the founders of ISFSFAF. Up until now, prizes were given only for translated sf books. The original story that won this year was “Ani v’HaSavta Holchot l’Kniot” [“Grandmother and I go Shopping”] by Hamutal Levin.
Hamutal Levin’s story originally appeared in an online magazine, “Bli Panika” [“Don’t Panic”], edited by Rami Shalhevet, which presents original and translated articles and stories.
In earlier original short story competitions the winner was usually Vered Tochterman, who stands out as one of the best young sf short story writers in Israel.
Another young writer who stands out on the Internet is Ilan Eshkoli, who is an Orthodox Jew and introduces many Jewish mystical and religious ideas into his SF stories. We wait with bated breath for Eshkoli’s first story collection.
The Internet is the most active scene today for SF fans in Israel. Besides the ISFSFAF site and the “Bli Panika” site, there is the ISF site (Israeli SF) maintained by Eli Herstein, which daily supplies news and articles on sf and fantasy. Herstein is also the SF editor for Keter, one of the largest publishing houses in Israel. /
In addition to these edited sites on the Internet, there are several forums, sites in which sf fans discuss topics of interest to them. Among them there are special forums for original stories in which fan writers receive harsh but constructive criticism about their stories from other fans.
SF and Fantasy in Translation
In recent years there has been much activity in translating SF from other languages into Hebrew. “Odysseya” publishing is run by two sf fans, Kobi Kamin and Uri Sandich, which has devoted itself exclusively to publishing translated SF, but in the future will add original sf too.
Particularly outstanding in the field of translation is the experienced and productive Emanuel Lottem, who is considered the best SF translator in Israel today. He has successfully translated both Tolkien and Larry Niven, is an expert on both these writers, and regularly writes and gives lectures about them both. His excellent 1978 translation of Dune by Frank Herbert is said by many Israelis to be better than the original in its style, and in the authenticity of the pseudo-Arabic language used in it.
Among the outstanding editors of sf translations is Didi Hanoch, who is very active in the sf fan community, and has an Internet site in which he surveys new sf books as they come out in other countries.
As can be seen above, the field of original Hebrew sf and fantasy is richer than one might suppose,.
The SF and fantasy scene in Israel is today richer and more varied than at any time in the past. Young SF and fantasy writers stand out more and more in general Hebrew literature. In truth, SF and fantasy fans are the most active and outstanding group in the whole field of Israeli literature. They totally dominate Israeli literature on the Internet. and we can hope that, despite Israel’s difficult situation, it will continue to develop in the future
Gail Hareven, HaDerech l’Gan Eden [The Way to Heaven] (Keter, 1999); one of the best Hebrew sf books ever written.
Barry Prigat, HaAretz HaMuvtahat [The Promised Land] (Hed Arzi, 1999).
Shlomo Shoval, B’Medinot HaShamyim [Nations of the Sky] (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 1998).
Manuela Dviri, Beitza shel Shokolad [L’uovo di Cioccolata][Chocolate Egg] (Yediot Aharonot, 2000); a collection of exceptionally interesting stories about the future of Israel.
Nava Semel Tzhok shel Achbarosh [The Rat Laughs] (Yediot Aharonot, 2001).
Dror Feuer’s Zadok b’Naftolei HaTshuka [Zadok Struggles with Desire] (Bavel, 2002).
Vered Tochterman Lif’amim Zeh Aheret [Sometimes It’s Different] (Opus 2002).
Dan Tsalka B’Siman HaLotus [In the Sign of the Lotus] (Xargol, 2002).
Amir Or, Shir Tahira [The Song of Tahira] (Xargol, 2001).
Addy Zemach, Kolot Zarim [Alien Voices] (HaKibbutz HaMeuhad, 2000); however most of the stories are not sf or fantasy.
Shlomo Leniado, Isha Zara [Mirror Me] (Yediot Aharonot, 1999); interesting, but not a good book.
Michael Omer, HaGeographia shel Sof HaOlam [The Geography of the World’s End] (Opus, 1997), and Mitkefet HaBarvaz [The Duck’s Attack] (Yaron Golan, 1999); both are enjoyable and show potential for the future.
Etgar Keret Anihu [Cheap Moon] (Zmora-Bitan, 2002).
Tala Bar Mikhal Bat HaMelech [Mikhal – The King’s Daughter] (Halonot, 2001).
Reuven Kritz Uzzai (Pura, 2002) (originally appeared in 1983 under the pseudonym “Ricky Keller”).
Moshe Benarroch Lucena (Astrolog, 2002).
Exceptionally good fantasy:
Alex Epstein Matkonei Halomot [Dream Recipes] (Bavel, 2002).
Roee Rosen Zeah M’tuka [Sweet Sweat] (Bavel, 2001).
Sf and Fantasy for Children:
Anat Kaufman Ta’alumat Karnei HaShemesh [Mystery of the Sun’s Rays] (Yediot Aharonot, 2002).
Galia Shenberg HaDelet shel Poli [The Door of Polie] (Beit Ohr Vilnai, 2001).
Most Interesting Sf Book for Children:
Avi Segal Ruah Enoshit baCochav [Human Spirit on the Planet] (Yediot Aharonot, 2001).
The Best Fantasy Book for Children:
Shin Shifra Alilot Gilgamesh [Tales of Gilgamesh] (Am Oved, 2000).
[Translated by Aharon Sheer]
English articles in the web about Israeli sf and fantasy
Hebrew sf from Biblical times to the 90s
Israeli sf at the beginning of the 21 century :part 1
A Survey of Israeli Science Fiction and Fantasy in the Year 2003
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