Why Amos Oz, Israeli Author and Peace Activist, Can't Hide From Rockets of Gaza

Famed Man of Letters Finds Himself Trapped in Hospital

Holding Firm To Principles: Despite the fact that her father remains hospitalized, Fania Oz-Salzberger (left) says Amos Oz still opposes the ground invasion of Gaza.
Ben Weinstein Photography
Holding Firm To Principles: Despite the fact that her father remains hospitalized, Fania Oz-Salzberger (left) says Amos Oz still opposes the ground invasion of Gaza.

By Hody Nemes

Published July 22, 2014, issue of August 01, 2014.

When air raid sirens sound in Israel, some disabled and elderly residents are unable to take shelter before the missiles land. One of them is named Amos Oz.

Oz, Israel’s renowned man of letters, is confined to his bed in a Tel Aviv hospital following knee surgery. With only one-and-a-half minutes of warning before the rockets strike, there’s no time to move the incapacitated 75-year-old author to safety.

But Oz isn’t afraid of the missiles raining down around him. “It would take much more to frighten my father,” said his daughter, Fania Oz-Salzberger.

“[However,] he is scared and worried by the general situation — by the hostilities, by the death of innocents, including so many people in Gaza,” she added. “This worries and distresses him to no end.”

Amos Oz was a founder of Peace Now and one of the first proponents of a two-state solution after the Six Day War. He “has opposed and still opposes” the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, his daughter said.

That Oz, an Israeli icon of peace, is currently vulnerable to rocket attacks strikes his daughter as “ironic.”

“He’s a person who has been person working for peace all his life, talking to Palestinians [and] Israelis and doing his best to get the situation into a more livable phase,” she said.

Oz has been in and out of the hospital in recent weeks, though his daughter declined to elaborate about his condition. “It will take a while…but hopefully he will get better,” she said. “[W]e are hoping for the best.”

His illness and the rockets flying overhead have not deterred the award-winning Israeli author from working. “He never ever stops writing,” his daughter said.

Oz-Salzberger said she and her father are especially concerned about what they see as “the deterioration of public discourse of Israel,” especially among right-wingers.

“The real danger in these tough days does not come form the Hamas rockets [but] the dangerous escalation of hate speech, of nationalist extremism,” she said.

Oz-Salzberger said she has seen this vitriol firsthand in the responses to her Twitter posts during the conflict. “I have been trolled and cursed and threatened by both sides, by pro-Palestinian fanatics and by Israeli right-wing fanatics,” she said.

With her father, Oz-Salzberger co-wrote “Jews and Words,” a 2012 book about the power of texts and language in Jewish civilization, and she takes solace in its message. “I am strongly hoping and praying that the great ancient Jewish art of peacefully conducting disagreements by the use of words will not be abandoned by the israeli public today,” she said.

Oz-Salzberger is herself a vocal peacenik, though she noted that she is “not exactly a younger copy of my dad [and] never have been.” (She is certain her father will speak further in his own voice once he recovers.)

Though she believes in a two-state solution comprised of two democracies existing side-by-side, she is gloomy about the prospect of democracy in Gaza. “Although I’m very a hopeful and optimistic peacenik Zionist, I find it rather difficult these days to be hopeful or optimistic when it comes to Gaza,” she said.

Contact Hody Nemes at nemes@forward.com or on Twitter, @hodifly



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