Amos Oz, iconic Israeli author, passes at age 79

Famed poet, author and political thinker, Amos Oz, dead at 79

(December 28, 2018 / KDJ) Born 4 May, 1939, during Israel’s Mandate era, Amos Klausner, whose family name changed to Oz, was a Jerusalem native, author, and political thinker.  

Oz’s poems and other works reflected an intellectual criticism towards Israeli social dilemmas.  His work revolved heavily around the acceptance of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and Oz was a vocal proponent of the two-state solution.

Having served in the Israeli Defense Forces’ Nahal Brigade, as well as in both the Six-Day War in ‘67, and the Yom Kippur War in ‘73, Oz later took up writing and acquired part-time employment as a school teacher and labourer.  

Oz was educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Oz also spent time in the UK where he graduated from the University of Oxford.

In 1978, Oz founded Peace Now, a left-leaning organization that appealed to Israelis focused on the establishment of Jerusalem as a dual capital.  Perhaps Oz’s most controversial moment in the socio-political paradigm was when he sent one of his books to Marwan Barghouti, a jailed Palestinian terrorist, in an endeavour to change the disturbing convictions Barghouti harboured towards Jews.  

Oz’s books were translated into several different languages and while Barghouti received an Arabic version of A Tale of Love and Darkness his copy came with an extra special personal note in Hebrew that read: “This story is our story, I hope you read it and understand us as we understand you, hoping to see you outside and in peace, yours, Amos Oz.”

As a result of Oz’s actions, Assaf Harofeh Hospital cancelled an invitation sent to the author who was offered the position to present the keynote speech to outstanding physicians.  Many rightist political parties also harshly criticized Oz during this event.

Some, like current Ambassador of Israel to the United Nations and former Member of Knesset: Danny Danon, vocally disagreed with Oz, other individuals found this to be a case of censorship against the writer who had been blocked from speaking. 

Oz carried a very complicated controversy on his shoulders.  On one hand he was so progressive he was prepared to break bread with a deadly enemy, and on the other hand, he was a fierce Zionist and a courageous combat soldier to boot.  Although an outspoken critic of the Israeli government, Oz’s view of Israel should be closely observed.  His loyalty to the Jewish State was unwavering and for that, he should be commended.

His position on the conflict became clearer as, just a few years later, he was recognized as being an outstanding advocate of Israeli actions in Gaza; referring to Operation Protective Edge, in which he heavily criticized the Palestinian use of human shields, asking, “What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap, and starts shooting machine-gun fire into your nursery? What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?”

Oz, 79, passed away, December 28, 2018 after battling cancer.  His daughter made this information public via Twitter.  Fania Oz-Salzberger, said about her father Amos, that he died peacefully and with people who loved him around him.  BDH and may his memory be a blessing.