Reactions pour in following the passing of Amos Oz, 79, who leaves a literary ‘void’

December 29, 2018 by Jackson Richman - JNS
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Reactions poured in following the death of Israeli author and intellectual Amos Oz on Friday at the age of 79.

Israeli author and intellectual Amos Oz died from cancer on Dec. 28, 2018, at the age of 79. Credit: Blaues Sofa/Flickr.

Alan Dershowitz, constitutional law scholar and professor of law, emeritus at Harvard University Law School, told JNS that “Amos was a friend” of his who leaves “a void” on the left side of the ideological spectrum in that he exemplified that one can be critical of Israeli policies while advocating for the Jewish state.

“Oz, as a man of the left, knew the dangers of anti-Zionism, arguing correctly that when you call for Israel’s destruction, it’s anti-Semitism,” Asaf Romirowsky, executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, told JNS. “If [leftist] groups in the states took their cues from individuals like Oz, we would be in a better place.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said Oz was a literary giant, and that “sadness has descended on us.” From Brazil, where Israeli Prime Minister plans to attend incoming Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro inauguration on Tuesday, he noted the passing of Oz, one of Israel’s “greatest writers.”


“Mourning the loss of Amos Oz, one of Israel’s prominent literary voices,” tweeted Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon. “A loss for us all and for the world. May his memory be blessed.”

“Oz was like a beacon of light. He was a rare combination of a writer and a leader that we won’t see any longer,” said Yigal Schwartz, founding director of the Heksherim Research Institute for Jewish and Israeli Literature and Culture at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

“He was primarily responsible for the success and calibre of talent at the institute, where the Amos Oz Archives is located,” continued Schwartz, a colleague for 30 years and who was recruited to the university by Oz. “At the archives, there’s a map of the countries and languages where his literature was translated all over the world. He was the best ambassador for Israel, for the Negev and for BGU.”

Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström posted on Twitter: “Amos Oz is dead. A voice of reason and compassion has fallen silent. Read ‘How to cure a fanatic’ and get inspired to contribute to a better world.”

Oz was also a friend of J Street and addressed its annual conference multiple times.


“For me, personally, he was like a second father,” said J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami in a statement. “We bonded over shared family roots, not just geographically in the pale of Jewish Settlement in Russia/Poland and then in Jerusalem, but politically in the Revisionist [right of centre] Zionism of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. We revelled in our subsequent transformation into proud liberal Zionists.

“With his wisdom as our guide, it is now on those of us who shared his values and his politics to keep at the as-yet incomplete, but vital work, of peace-building and conflict resolution,” he continued.

“It was the dream of our people for two millennia to again be a free people in our own land,” added Ben-Ami. “Oz understood the irony that the Jewish people could only achieve that dream if those with whom we have been fighting for a century have freedom and dignity too.”

AIPAC also offered its condolences: “We mourn the passing of a great Israeli literary figure who was also a passionate advocate for peace and reconciliation,” the organization’s spokesperson, Marshall Wittmann, told JNS.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of the great Israeli author Amos Oz—a staunch and thoughtful Israeli and Zionist, and a passionate advocate for peace,” said Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “His beautiful prose and moral voice will be sorely missed. May his memory be a blessing.”

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