Famed Israeli author Amos Oz has passed away today, aged 79, after a short battle with cancer.
Perhaps the most renowned Israeli author, Oz’s work has been translated into 45 languages and won dozens of awards, including the prestigious Goethe Prize and the Israel Prize for Literature. Oz was also an activist, repeatedly advocating in favor of the two-state solution and calling for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Moment has featured Oz’s own words and reviews of his works over the years.
At Home With Amos Oz
In 2008, Moment Editor-In-Chief Nadine Epstein interviewed Oz at his Arad home. Sharp as always, Oz shared his thoughts on Zionism, peace, and life in the land of Israel.
“Being an Israeli of my age is roughly the equivalent of being a 350-year-old American. I saw the birth of the nation with my own eyes,” Oz said. “I think if we Israelis make the right choices and we do the right things we’ll stand a good chance to thrive. Kicking and screaming, but we will thrive.”
Symposiums: On The Meaning of ‘Messiah’ And Dividing Jerusalem
In 2012, Oz contributed to two Moment symposiums.
The Jerusalem native was as erudite as ever in his answer to the question, Do We Divide The Holiest Holy City?
“The Jerusalem of my childhood, late in the 1940s, was a loose federation of neighborhoods. Sooner or later the political division will occur whether we like it or not.”
In answering another symposium, What Does the Concept of the Messiah Mean Today?, Oz again showed his unique blend of secularism, deep knowledge of tradition and hope for a better future:
“The Messiah may be around the corner, but that’s where he should always be. It doesn’t mean not to do much and everything will be taken care of. In the Jewish tradition we have to act, every day, every hour. We have to make moral decisions, almost every minute. Sitting idly waiting for the Messiah is a sin.”
Book Reviews: Jews and Words, Judas and Dear Zealots
Oz was notable for his terse-yet-touching voice, which often tiptoed the line separating reality and fiction.
In Jews and Words, published in 2012, Oz and his daughter (and Moment contributor) Fania Oz-Salzberger investigated the historic and cultural connection between the Jewish people and the languages they spoke.
The author’s 2016 novel, Judas, “is more than a psychological study of domestic interactions,” wrote Brown University Judaic Studies Professor David C. Jacobson. “It is a novel of ideas that raises serious questions about whether those whom society identifies as traitors deserve that label.”
Writer Frances Brent ended her review of Oz’s Dear Zealots—published earlier this month—with this passage:
“This is probably as good a place as any to reflect on the miracle of Oz and his generation of writers, who reinvented a vibrantly rich language and a literature that thrives in these fragile times and in a fragile place.”
Amos Oz, 1939—2018
Yehi zichro baruch—May his memory be blessed.