“when i was a little girl i had a lot of strength to love , now my strength to love is going to die. I don’t want to die.”
-Amos Oz “My Michael”
“There are lots of women who are attracted to tyrannical men. Like moths to a flame. And there are some women who do not need a hero or even a stormy lover but a friend. Just remember that when you grow up. Steer clear of the tryant lovers, and try to locate the ones who are looking for a man as a friend, not because they are feeling empty themselves but because they enjoy making you full too. And remember that friendship between a woman and a man is something much more precious and rare than love: love is actually something quite gross and even clumsy compared to friendship. Friendship includes a measure of sensitivity, attentiveness, generosity, and a finely tuned sense of moderation.”
My first day of university was a rather pleasant one; everything felt familiar , i had attended science kids camp at Tel Aviv university a few years before so the first day felt fine , i ran into people i had served in the army with and the lectures were nice enough, i had always wanted to study Biology but then i came home and my mother and i began an angry confrontation and i packed my bags and took the next bus to Jerusalem and did not look back.
One year of Biology and i missed people as much as i disliked them at the same time and so i tore a black and white photo of Amos Oz that had appeared in the literary section of the newspaper and used scotch tape to secure it on the wall above my bed and admitted to myself that he was the real reason i boarded that bus to Jerusalem and why i wanted to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he had studied and that his novel “My Michael” had dictated to me a love of awkward brainy men who would always fail to understand me the way the woman in the novel failed to connect to the man she had married , i even planned on naming my son “Michael” but that was not the only detail that did not match. I ended up not signing up for literature classes but Psychology and Philosophy and in a moment of despair i changed from philosophy to Theater as a compromise to what seemed to me an overwhelming load of required reading in the Hebrew literature department. Plays were easier to read and demanded pure analysis rather than accumulating facts of fictional writing so i did not follow my hero though i had the photo of Amos Oz hanging above my bed in the students dorm at Mount Scopus Hebrew University campus .
It gave me a thrill to follow in the footsteps of Amos Oz, to feel his novel come alive and to live my life in a bubble that would be as far from reality, whatever that meant, as possible.
I got to meet my hero , Amos Oz, two times and both times had been oddly enough abroad, once in Harvard, and the last time in a reading in zurich, Switzerland .
The first time i had attended a reading given by Amos Oz to a huge audience of students at Harvard i was attending graduate school at a small college near Harvard , i asked a political question Amos Oz did not appreciate , “How come you are so busy with the Palestinians and at the same time you describe the inner depths of the soul of a woman in “My Michael?” I had asked him. ” I am interested in both Palestinians and women ‘s souls” he has answered, and i got my answer.
When i had met Amos Oz the second time in zurich, i was already a mother of three children, a parent, and much older and perhaps more mature. I handed him my copy of his biography “Tales of love and darkness” in Hebrew and he signed the book. He smiled. I smiled. I told him my father ‘s cousin went to school with him, he said, sure , i remember and i felt good he had a genuine happy smile this time unlike the angry expression last time i had met him.
I still irritate people but i can also feel happy making them smile .
Amos Oz died the same age as my late mother, 79, and just like when my mother had died, i was shocked, and felt it was way too soon and there was so much more i needed to say and how sad that i had wanted to attend a class given by Amos Oz last year on masterpiece literature in Tel Aviv, now that i had moved back there but did not realise that there might not be time next year and that Amos Oz would not be there to teach and talk and answer my questions.
Why did he leave when there was still so much to say and write ?
Perhaps the questions remaining unanswered are what he had left as his legacy .
I still can not believe Amos Oz and i had lived in the same city and i could have ran into him but i did have two meetings with my hero and that is generous of the universe that had me meet my hero two times!
Re reading him i will perhaps understand his words differently now as i move on and change with time.
If you ask me why did i love the man, i would say, because i felt for the first time that someone had deeply understood me and could describe what it felt like to be misunderstood by others. I think i was not the only one who felt this way but when you love someone , it does not matter he is loved by millions and it also does not matter some people strongly disliked him for voicing his thoughts and opinions.
Love does not need explanation
Amos Oz (Hebrew: עמוס עוז; born Amos Klausner; 4 May 1939 – 28 December 2018) was an Israeli writer, novelist, journalist, and intellectual. He was also a professor of Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. From 1967 onwards, Oz was a prominent advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
He was the author of 40 books, including novels, short story collections, children’s books, and essays, and his work has been published in 45 languages, more than that of any other Israeli writer. He was the recipient of many honours and awards, among them the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Legion of Honour of France, the Israel Prize, the Goethe Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award in Literature, the Heinrich Heine Prize, and the Franz Kafka Prize.
Amos Klausner (later Oz) was born in 1939 in Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine, where he grew up at No. 18 Amos Street in the Kerem Avraham neighborhood. He was the only child of Fania (Mussman) and Yehuda Arieh Klausner, immigrants to Mandatory Palestine who had met while studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His father’s family was from Lithuania, where they had been farmers, raising cattle and vegetables near Vilnius. His father studied history and literature in Vilnius (then part of Poland) and hoped to become a professor of comparative literature but never gained headway in the academic world. He worked most of his life as a librarian at the Jewish National and University Library. Oz’s mother grew up in Rivne (then part of Poland, now Ukraine). She was a highly sensitive and cultured daughter of a wealthy mill owner and his wife, and attended Charles University in Prague, where she studied history and philosophy. She had to abandon her studies when her father’s business collapsed during the Great Depression.
Oz’s parents were multilingual (his father claimed he could read in 16 or 17 languages, while his mother spoke four or five languages, but could read in seven or eight) but neither was comfortable speaking in Hebrew, which was adopted as the official language of Israel. They spoke with each other in Russian or Polish, but the only language they allowed Oz to learn was Hebrew.
Many of Oz’s family members were right-wing Revisionist Zionists. His great-uncle Joseph Klausner was the Herut party candidate for the presidency against Chaim Weizmann and was chair of the Hebrew literature department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Oz and his family were not religious, considering it irrational. Oz attended the community religious school, Tachkemoni, since the only alternative was a socialist school affiliated with the Labor movement, to which his family was even more opposed. The noted poet Zelda Schneersohn Mishkovsky was one of his teachers. After Tachkemoni he attended Gymnasia Rehavia.
His mother, who suffered from depression, committed suicide in January 1952, when he was 12. Oz would later explore the repercussions of this event in his memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness.
At age 14, Oz became a Labor Zionist, left home, and joined Kibbutz Hulda. There he was adopted by the Huldai family and changed his surname to “Oz” (Hebrew: “courage”). Later asked why he did not leave Jerusalem for Tel Aviv, he replied, “Tel Aviv was not radical enough – only the kibbutz was radical enough”. By his own account he was “a disaster as a laborer…the joke of the kibbutz”.When Oz first began to write, the kibbutz allotted him one day per week for this work. When his novel My Michael became a best-seller, Oz quipped, “I became a branch of the farm, yet they still said I could have just three days a week to write. It was only in the eighties when I got four days for my writing, two days for teaching, and Saturday turns as a waiter in the dining hall”.
Oz did his Israel Defense Forces service in the Nahal Brigade, participating in border skirmishes with Syria. After concluding his three years of mandatory regular army service, he was sent by his kibbutz to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he studied philosophy and Hebrew literature. He graduated in 1963 and began teaching in the kibbutz high school while continuing to write. He served as an army reservist in a tank unit which fought in the Sinai Peninsula during the Six-Day War and in the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War.
Oz married Nily Zuckerman in 1960, and they had three children. The family continued to live at Hulda until 1986, when they moved to Arad in the Negev to seek relief for their son Daniel’s asthma. Oz was a full professor of Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev from 1987 to 2014. He also served as a writer in residence and visiting scholar at universities abroad. In 2014 the family moved to Tel Aviv. His oldest daughter, Fania Oz-Salzberger, teaches history at the University of Haifa.
Oz published his first book, Where the Jackals Howl, a collection of short stories, in 1965. His first novel, Another Place(published in U.S. as Elsewhere, Perhaps) appeared in 1966. Subsequently, Oz averaged a book per year with the Histadrut press Am Oved. In 1988 Oz left Am Oved for the Keter Publishing House, which offered him an exclusive contract that granted him a fixed monthly salary regardless of output. Oz became a primary figure in the Israeli “New Wave” movement in literature in the 1960s, a group which included A. B. Yehoshua, Amalia Kahana-Carmon, and Aharon Appelfeld.
Oz published 40 books, among them 14 novels, five collections of stories and novellas, two children’s books, and twelve books of articles and essays (as well as eight selections of essays that appeared in various languages), and about 450 articles and essays. His works have been translated into some 45 languages, more than any other Israeli writer. In 2007, a selection from the Chinese translation of A Tale of Love and Darkness was the first work of modern Hebrew literature to appear in an official Chinese textbook. The story “Esperanto” from the collection Between Friends was translated into Esperanto in 2015.
Oz’s political commentary and literary criticism have been published in the Histadrut newspaper Davar and Yedioth Ahronoth. Translations of his essays have appeared in the New York Review of Books. The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev maintains an archive of his work.
Oz tended to present protagonists in a realistic light with an ironic touch while his treatment of the life in the kibbutz was accompanied by a somewhat critical tone. Oz credited a 1959 translation of American writer Sherwood Anderson‘s short story collection Winesburg, Ohio with his decision to “write about what was around me.” In A Tale of Love and Darkness, his memoir of coming of age in the midst of Israel’s violent birth pangs, Oz credited Anderson’s “modest book” with his own realization that “the written world … always revolves around the hand that is writing, wherever it happens to be writing: where you are is the center of the universe.” In his 2004 essay “How to Cure a Fanatic” (later the title essay of a 2006 collection), Oz argues that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a war of religion or cultures or traditions, but rather a real estate dispute – one that will be resolved not by greater understanding, but by painful compromise.
Views and opinions
Oz was one of the first Israelis to advocate a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict after the Six-Day War. He did so in a 1967 article “Land of our Forefathers” in the Labor newspaper Davar. “Even unavoidable occupation is a corrupting occupation,” he wrote. In 1978, he was one of the founders of Peace Now. He did not oppose (and in 1991 advocated) the construction of an Israeli West Bank barrier, but believed that it should be roughly along the Green Line, the 1949 Armistice line between Israel and Jordan. He also advocated that Jerusalem be divided into numerous zones, not just Jewish and Palestinian zones, including one for the Eastern Orthodox, one for Hasidic Jews, an international zone, and so on.
He was opposed to Israeli settlement activity and was among the first to praise the Oslo Accords and talks with the PLO. In his speeches and essays he frequently attacked the non-Zionist left and always emphasized his Zionist identity. He was perceived as an eloquent spokesperson of the Zionist left. For many years Oz was identified with the Israeli Labor Party and was close to its leader Shimon Peres. When Peres retired from party leadership, he is said to have named Oz as one of three possible successors, along with Ehud Barak (later Prime Minister) and Shlomo Ben-Ami (later Barak’s foreign minister). In the 1990s, Oz withdrew his support from Labor and went further left to the Meretz Party, where he had close connections with the leader, Shulamit Aloni. In the elections to the sixteenth Knesset that took place in 2003, Oz appeared in the Meretz television campaign, calling upon the public to vote for Meretz.
Oz was a supporter of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. In the Los Angeles Times, he wrote: “Many times in the past, the Israeli peace movement has criticized Israeli military operations. Not this time. This time, the battle is not over Israeli expansion and colonization. There is no Lebanese territory occupied by Israel. There are no territorial claims from either side… The Israeli peace movement should support Israel’s attempt at self-defense, pure and simple, as long as this operation targets mostly Hezbollahand spares, as much as possible, the lives of Lebanese civilians.
Oz changed his position of unequivocal support of the war as “self-defense” in the wake of the cabinet’s decision to expand operations in Lebanon.
A day before the outbreak of the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, Oz signed a statement supporting military action against Hamasin the Gaza Strip. Two weeks later he advocated a ceasefire with Hamas and called attention to the harsh conditions there. He was quoted in the Italian paper Corriere della Sera as saying Hamas was responsible for the outbreak of violence, but the time had come to seek a cease-fire. Oz also said that if innocent citizens were indeed killed in Gaza, it should be treated as a war crime, although he doubted that bombing UN structures was intentional.
In a New York Times editorial in June 2010, he wrote: “Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians. No idea has ever been defeated by force… To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one… Israel has to sign a peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government in the West Bank.”
In March 2011, Oz sent imprisoned former Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti a copy of his book A Tale of Love and Darkness in Arabic translation with his personal dedication in Hebrew: “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”.The gesture was criticized by members of rightist political parties, among them Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely. Assaf Harofeh Hospital canceled Oz’s invitation to give the keynote speech at an awards ceremony for outstanding physicians in the wake of this incident.
Oz supported Israeli actions in Gaza during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, criticizing the tactic of using human shields, widely imputed to be employed by Hamas at the time, 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?”AM