Israel’s Most Famous Living Author
The Fellowship | June 1, 2018
Known for: A novelist and journalist, Oz is also Professor of Literature at Ben-Gurion University.
About him: Born in British-mandate Palestine to Jewish olim (immigrants) from Lithuania and Poland, Amos Oz was raised in Jerusalem. His parents each knew many different languages, though neither was comfortable speaking the Hebrew of their historic and biblical homeland. However, Oz’s parents understood the importance of knowing Hebrew in the Holy Land, and it was the only language their son was allowed to learn.
Oz attended his community’s religious school, where one of his teachers was the acclaimed Israeli poet Zelda. But when the boy was only 12, his mother, who had suffered from depression, committed suicide. Two years later, Amos left home at the age of only 14, joining Kibbutz Hulda.
On the farm, Oz was “a disaster as a laborer…the joke of the kibbutz.” As he began to write, the leaders allowed him one day each week to work on his writing. But after his book My Michael became a best-seller, Oz was allowed three days of writing per week. Later, he would be given four days a week to write, two to teach, while still working as a waiter in the kibbutz dining hall each Shabbat.
Oz also served with the IDF as part of the Nahal Brigade. He participated in border fighting with Syria, served in a tank unit in the Sinai during the 1967 Six-Day War, and in the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Oz has been outspoken about recent Israeli military operations. He supported the Second Lebanon War in 2006, calling it “self-defense, pure and simple.” He has also supported IDF operations against Hamas in Gaza, criticizing the terror organization’s use of human shields. After his military service, Oz studied philosophy and Hebrew literature at Hebrew University, later working as a teacher of both literature and philosophy.
First writing in his kibbutz newsletter and the Israeli newspaper Davar, Oz published his first book, Where the Jackals Howl, in 1965. Since then, he has published 40 books, including 14 novels, five story collections, two children’s books, 12 collections of essays, and 450 articles. His work has been translated into 45 different languages, and has earned this truly Israeli author many, many honors, including the Legion of Honour, the Goethe Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award in Literature, the Heinrich Heine Prize, and of course the Israel Prize.