Haaretz tried something this morning that feels curiously right in unexpected ways. To celebrate "Hebrew Book Week," the paper asked a dozen or so of Israel's best selling writers, Yoram Kaniuk, David Grossman, Etgar Keret, to go out and cover something. The result feels both reassuringly retro and visionary at the same time.
Retro, because the radically secular implication of Hebrew culture is not so easily taken for granted these days. When Netanyahu says "Jewish state," and both Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef and Las Vegas spiritual leader Sheldon Adelson nod approvingly, I know I am in trouble. Actually, the very name of the week in question implicitly acknowledges a continuing (dare I say Zionist?) delight in the sheer novelty of a Jewish experience grounded in an inclusive national language. Which is why Israelis still celebrate "Hebrew Book Week," after all--something like the French ordering French fries. Adam Lebor captures this celebration in his lovely piece about Tel-Aviv in the current Condé Nast Traveler.
But there is another remarkable thing about the paper this morning. It reads like a bundle of fine blog posts. There is voice and creative engagement in these pieces, which does not mean a want of facts or rules of evidence. As Ram Oren put it on Israeli radio this morning, we have a hundred ways of getting (and Twittering) breaking news qua happenings: the Supreme Court issued this ruling, the earthquake was this number on the Richter scale. But getting at the truth is another matter, and a writer has to ask, as Oren asks (using a somewhat materialist phrase, but never mind), "what is the value-added?" Haaretz did not quite ask that question this morning. But I suspect that, if it will still be here 10 years from now, it has given us a peek at the way it will survive.