12/29/2018, 12.48
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Amos Oz, a literary ‘’giant’, a militant for peace, a 'traitor' for Israel’s right, is dead

by Joshua Lapide

The life and work of the prolific novelist and essayist span the whole Israeli epic: kibbutz, wars, supporter of "two peoples, two states". He often condemned fanaticism and illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – Amos Oz was a "literary giant” for Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. The world knew him as a militant for peace between two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s extreme right saw him as a traitor for condemning many times Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories. Oz, who died yesterday at the age of 79, was all this. His daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger, thanked "those who loved him".

Born into a Russian-Polish family in 1939 in Jerusalem, then under British rule, he joined a kibbutz in northern Israel at 14 after his mother's suicide. It is here that he changed his surname: from Klausner to Oz (strength, courage in Hebrew). He later studied philosophy and literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and began writing in 1961.

After serving in the Israeli military in the Six Day War in 1967, Oz opposed the annexation of Palestinian territories. In 1978, as Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in Camp David, he became one of the founders of Peace Now, the first Israeli organisation opposed to settlements in the occupied territories.

Always restless, he abandoned the Labour party in the 1990s to back the left-leaning Meretz, a party that advocates peace with the Palestinians. He spoke out many times against Israeli military operations in Gaza, or the fanaticism of those who put "price tags" on churches and mosques.

His most famous writings include Black Box; A tale of love and darkness, which looks at his mother's suicide; and Judah, in which he highlights the figure of the traitor, a label pinned on him by the Israeli far right.

In his novels, stories and essays, complicated relationships and lives are intertwined against the backdrop of Israel’s tragedies: the messianic dream of return, the anguish of the Shoah, the threats of war, the struggle for possession of a land claimed by two peoples.

Together with other authors such as David Grossman, he gave new impetus to modern Hebrew.  Although a stern critic of the errors of his government, he has never stopped believing in the Israeli state.

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