Israeli-Arab Knesset member Issawi Frej organized on June 10 a gathering in the Knesset in honor of the Arabic Book Festival, an initiative to create public events related to Israeli-Arab-written prose and literature. But even though the Likud Party's newly appointed minister of culture, Miri Regev, declared that she will be “the minister of culture for everyone," she didn’t come. In fact, only nine members of Knesset participated in the event, just one of them from the coalition. “There’s a deafening silence from the minister of culture,” Frej told Al-Monitor. “But we will bring the issue to her agenda. I expect that the people of the book [in reference to the Jewish people] will also be a light to the gentiles.” Regev has yet to respond.
Under these circumstances precisely, when the issue of Arab culture has become such a sensitive one, and in view of the prevailing tensions between Israeli Jews and Arabs, Frej wants to advance the status of Arabic literature in Israel. “I called the process 'Books Build Bridges,'" he said. “In the difficult reality of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel today, a reality of separation, tension, nationalist discourse and discourse of hatred, we have to find something that connects the different groups that compose Israeli society. Culture, language and literature are just the ticket.”