Sapir Prize

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Sapir Prize
Awarded for Awarded for works of fine literature
Country Israel
Presented by Mifal HaPayis
First awarded 2000

The Sapir Prize for Literature of Israel is a prestigious[1][2] annual literary award presented for a work of fine literature. The prize is awarded by Mifal HaPayis (Israel's state lottery), and is a part of the organization's cultural initiatives. It carries the name of the late Pinhas Sapir, a former Finance Minister of Israel, and was first awarded in 2000.

Prize rules[edit]

The group of judges for the prize is composed of prominent literary figures, whose names are kept confidential until the prize winner is named. Some of these judges are replaced from year to year.

The judges first select five books published during the previous year as final contestants for the prize. These books are selected from a list of books provided by the major publishing houses. After a number of weeks, a winner is chosen from these five books and is publicised during Israel's Hebrew Book Week.

The Sapir Prize, based on the British Man Booker Prize, is the most lucrative literary prize awarded in Israel: In 2005 the winner was awarded 150,000 NIS (roughly $35,000 USD), and each of the four remaining final contestants was awarded 25,000 NIS. In addition, the winner is granted translation of his work (from Hebrew) to the language of his choice. The prize award is the largest prize purse in literature in Israel.[3]

In 2003, author Etgar Keret's book of short stories Anihu was disqualified from competing for the prize after it was discovered that the regulations required all competing books to run at least 60,000 words. This rule has since been abolished.

The five finalist authors participate in a round of literary get-togethers with readers throughout Israel with the backing of Israel's state lottery. In 2005, the state lottery ran a competition allowing readers to bet on the winner of the prize; the first 30 people to guess the winner correctly received the five finalist books.

In 2006, in response to many petitions, the prize's management decided to open up the competition to works published in the previous five years which had been translated into Hebrew from other languages. All competing authors must be Israeli citizens. The change was intended to allow Israeli authors writing in Russian, Arabic, English, and additional languages to compete. These authors can compete either in the normal prize track, or in a separate track specifically for translated works, from which only one work is selected.

The prize's awarding ceremony is broadcast every year on television during Israel's Hebrew Book Week.


The Sapir Prize has been criticized on the grounds that it is given to bestsellers. Some of the country's most important writers refuse to submit their candidacy for it, including Meir Shalev, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz.[4]



External links[edit]