Jerusalem International Book Forum: Its 2021 Digital Programming

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The biennial Jerusalem International Book Forum this year will feature publishers, agents, scouts, editors, civic leaders and Israeli conductor Gil Shohat. (Sponsored)

In the Jerusalem International YMCA, the venue for the 2019 edition of the Jerusalem International Book Forum. Image: JIBF, Shmuel Cohen Photo Agency

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Programming on Four Days in May
With speakers including top executives with Penguin Random House, Holtzbrinck, Hachette Livre’s Fayard, Bonnier, House of Anansi and more, the Jerusalem International Book Forum‘s upcoming digital program has been designed as an interim evocation of the event’s reconfigured format introduced in 2019.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the forum is the contemporary restructured format of the former Jerusalem International Book Fair, and now stands as an industry-facing discussion arena, a think tank meant to be staged every other year.

Despite the highly regarded progress Israel has made in its vaccination effort, however, international travel restrictions and developments surrounding variants of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 make a physical event in May impractical, as we announced on March 1. The online program, then, is designed to work as a midpoint set of conversations on the way to a fully staged physical forum in spring 2022.

The coming digital program is arranged in two-hour events on four days.

  • May 3: A Formal 2021 Forum Opening
  • May 4: Publishing During a Pandemic: A Retrospective
  • May 14: Forum Fridays–What Now?
    Moving Forward (Agents, Scouts, and Editors)
  • May 21: Forum Fridays–What Now?
    Moving Forward (Publishers)

And the activities are conveniently organized to occur during the same hours on each of those four days, all sessions in English:

  • 15:30 to 17:30 Israel Daylight Time (IDT)
  • 13:30 to 15:30 British Summer Time (BST)
  • 8:30 am. to 10:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (ET)

Yoel Makov

The Jerusalem International Book Forum is a project of the Municipality of Jerusalem, run and produced by the Ariel Municipal Company. Yoel Makov directs the forum, with Hadar Makov Hasson as program director and Sharon Katz as production coordinator.

The Zev Birger Fellowship program, sponsored by the George von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group since its inception in 1985, will continue to coincide with the physical format of the forum in 2022. At that time, organizers say, the Birger alumni will continue to return to Jerusalem with the support of the Penguin Random House Group. And during this year’s digital programming, applications will be reopened for the 2022 Birger fellowship, with more details to come.

Programming Details by Date

May 3: A Formal 2021 Forum Opening

As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, the Jerusalem International Book Forum is the venue in which the biennial Jerusalem Prize is conferred,  normally on the opening of the forum in a sunset event as the day cools.

In 2019, Joyce Carol Oates received the prize and delivered the award’s traditional address at the opening of the forum. Music is also a key element of the opening in the physical setting of the forum, and in 2019 the Canetti-winning violinist Mark Karlinsky led the Jerusalem Music Center String Quartet in two movements from Mozart’s 15th quartet in D minor.

Moshe Lion

In the opening digital event on May 3 this year, Jerusalem’s mayor, Moshe Lion, who was with us in 2019, will announce the winner of the next Jerusalem Prize. At the time, there is to be a short statement of acceptance provided by the author named as the Jerusalem laureate.

In 2022, that author will then deliver her or his formal Jerusalem Prize address onstage at the physical forum.

This year’s opener is not without music, either.

Gil Shohat

It features a keynote address from Gil Shohat, the Israeli-born composer and conductor who serves as the classical music advisor to the Israel Festival-Jerusalem, as well as holding the artistic director’s seat with the Elysium Ensemble and permanent guest conductor with both the Emilia Romagna Festival in northern Italy and the United States’ Vermont Mozart Festival.

The former artistic director and chief conductor of the Israel Chamber Orchestra, Shohat has titled his keynote address for the forum Playing to an Empty Concert Hall: Creating Music and Performing During a Global Pandemic.

The session is to include Q&A with Shohat.

May 4: Publishing During a Pandemic: A Retrospective

Penguin Random House global CEO Markus Dohle on stage in May 2019 at the Jerusalem International Book Forum. Image: Porter Anderson

The second session of the program includes both a presentation and a discussion.

Markus Dohle, Penguin Random House CEO worldwide, is to give a “personal address” titled Why This Is (Still) the Best Time in Publishing Ever.

And then a panel comes together on the question What Happened in 2020 and Where Are We Now?

Madeline McIntosh

Discussing issues of “different roles and different perspectives,” will be:

  • Michael Cader, founder of Publishers Lunch and Publishers Marketplace, USA
  • Gray Tan, founder and president of Grayhawk Agency, based in Taipei
  • Yaniv Iczkovits, author, Israel
  • Madeline McIntosh, CEO, Penguin Random House USA

Ziv Lewis, the foreign rights and acquisitions manager of Israel’s Kinneret Zmora Publishing House, moderates the session.

Also on May 4, alumni of the Zev Birger Editorial Fellowship program are invited to register for “an online interactive reminder of the trip to Jerusalem.” To register, alumni should drop an email to

Literary agent Gray Tan, here in a conversation in his office in Taipei, is among agents speaking to the industry’s experience during the pandemic year in the 2021 digital Jerusalem International Book Forum. Image: Porter Anderson

May 14: Forum Fridays, Part 1

The first of two “Forum Fridays” programs is themed on the rights work of agents, scouts, and editors, and features two panels.

Rebecca Servadio

The first hour brings into play one of the key points of discussion in the business during the pandemic: Pitching on Zoom–Is Anyone There? Focused on “innovating the role of agents and scouts in a time of crisis, the session is moderated by Rena Rossner of the Deborah Harris Agency in Israel, and features:

  • Beniamino Ambrosi, Maria B. Campbell Associates, USA
  • Elisa Diallo, Schöffling & Co., Germany
  • Marina Penalva Halpin, Casanovas & Lynch Literary Agency, Spain
  • Rebecca Servadio. London Literary Scouting, UK
Peter Blackstock, Grove Atlantic, Festival Neue Literatur

Peter Blackstock

And then a second hour, starting at 16:40 IDT / 14:40 BST / 9:40 a.m. ET, will be moderated by Noa Menhaim of Kinneret Zmora Publishing House, will focus on the topic Where Is My Author? in the sense of issues around working from home, editing books, “and staying sane,” with editors in conversation including:

  • Peter Blackstock, Grove/Atlantic, UK
  • Marion Wichmann, Ullstein Germany
  • Ben George, Little, Brown and Company, USA
  • Anne Michel, Albin Michel, France

May 21: Forum Fridays, Part 2

An international rights panel at the 2019 Jerusalem International Book Forum with, from left, Elena Ramirez; Ziv Lewis; Kristine Kliemann; Clare Alexander; and Anne Solange Noble. Image: JIBF, Shmuel Cohen Photo Agency

Two signal panels bring together publishers and veteran observers in a closing “Forum Fridays” program on the 21st of May.

Sophie de Closets

The first is titled The New Now and features moderation from Albert Bonnier of Sweden’s Bonnier Förlag in Stockholm with publishers:

  • Luiz Schwartz, Companhia das Letras, Brazil
  • Sarah MacLachlan, House of Anansi, Canada
  • Sophie de Closets, Fayard, France

And the closing session of Final Thoughts is moderated by Stefan von Holtzbrinck of Holtzbrinck Publishing Group in Stuttgart.

Stefan von Holtzbrinck

His conversation will include:

  • Albert Bonnier
  • Noa Menhaim
  • Rena Rossner

Registration, free of charge, is open here for all sessions in the 2021 digital evocation of the Jerusalem International Book Forum.

Once again, the program is presented in collaboration with the International Writers Festival, Mishkenot Sha’ananim.

During a break in the 2019 Jerusalem International Book Forum program. Image: JIBF, Shmuel Cohen Photo Agency

The Coronavirus in Israel

At this writing, the 8:20 a.m. ET (1320 BST) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 836,072 cases in Israel’s population of nine million, with 6,299 fatalities.

As Haaretz reports today from Jerusalem, Israel has seen a nine-month drop in COVID infections and serious cases. That comes to 253 patients in serious condition, the lowest number since July–more proof of the country’s leadership in doing many things right to effectively handle its response to the pathogen.

So far, 5,320,077 people have received a first vaccine dose, while 4,936,635 have received a second shot.

At the same time, Israel’s prowess in testing and genomic sequencing has provided many guidelines to international scientists working on the contagion, and today’s messaging is concerning. As Maayan Lubell is reporting for Reuters Jerusalem, the coronavirus variant B.1.351, in a small study not yet peer-reviewed, appears to have broken through the protection of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It’s cautioned that the prevalence of B.1.351 in Israel is only about 1 percent. Nevertheless, the new study data from Tel Aviv University and healthcare provider Clalit.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Jerusalem International Book Forum is here, more from us on publishing conferences is here, and more on the Zev Birger Editorial Fellowship is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.