Historical records matching Amos Oz
About Amos Oz
Amos Oz writes the story of Israel.
by David Remnick ( 2004)
Amos Oz is the best-known novelist in Israel. For eighteen years, he has lived in the desert outpost of Arad, a town of twenty-eight thousand, between Be’er Sheva and the Dead Sea. In the late afternoon, after a day at his desk, he often takes a seat at a café in the town shopping mall. He doesn’t have to wait long before someone says hello or sits down to debate, perhaps even going so far as to denounce him for his public endorsement—first sounded in 1967, in the days after the Six-Day War—of a two-state settlement with the Palestinians. Oz is a liberal, and the Russians who increasingly dominate the population of Arad are not. But he is always happy to talk, a “word-child,” hyperarticulate. Fully formed paragraphs issue forth in conversation with a hypnotic, liquid ease. Sooner or later, his would-be debater is charmed and silenced.
Oz is in his mid-sixties, trim and, generously appraised, of medium height. He seems always to be squinting into a distant sun. When he first became famous, nearly forty years ago, reviewers and readers routinely commented on his rugged, emblematic looks: the light hair and light eyes, the deep tan, the spidery wrinkles near his eyes and the corners of his mouth. Dressed in rumpled chinos and a work shirt, Oz became part of the mid-century Zionist iconography: the novelist-kibbutznik, the Sabra of political conscience. His is still a handsome face but, depending on the angle or the expression, it now exists in a kind of temporal flux. A turn of the head this way and he is back in the vineyards and olive groves, a turn that way and he is a study-bound éminence grise. He wears bifocals on a string. Several years ago, he had his knees replaced. He walks as if on broken glass.
Oz is earnest, romantic, generous, sentimental, and pleasantly vain. He is well aware of his image, and is quick to make light of it. “European Zionist writing maintained that the moment the Jews set foot on Biblical soil they will be totally born again,” he told me one morning in his basement study. “They will be a new race. Even physically they will change. They will become blond, suntanned. Both of my parents were dark. In a genetic-ideological miracle, they succeeded in having a blond son. Which gave them infinite pride and joy. They were raving at my blondness! They thought it was the sun, the air. It’s Jerusalem! They used to call me shaygets. You know this Yiddish word and what’s behind it? It’s a little Ukrainian pig herder, who throws stones at Jews. I came from a long line of distinguished scholars and rabbis. Why would they be so happy to call their son a shaygets?”
Born in Jerusalem, Oz spent more than thirty years living on a kibbutz in central Israel, where he married and raised two daughters and a son. He moved to Arad in 1986. Until then, he had never owned anything more than some books and the clothes in his drawer. From the time he began earning serious royalties, with his 1968 novel “My Michael”—the story, told in a woman’s voice, of a disintegrating marriage, set against the Suez War of 1956—he plowed all his earnings back into the general account of the kibbutz. “It wasn’t until I was forty-six and moved to Arad that I had any private property, or even a checkbook,” he said. “You will not find someone with a more exotic background this side of North Korea.”
Oz is a man of nearly obsessive order: orderly sentences, orderly bookshelves, soldierly rituals. Every morning at around dawn and every evening at sunset, he leaves his modest house and makes his way to the desert. Arad is built on the flint, grit, and negligible scrub of the Negev. In the Book of Numbers, the Canaanite king of Arad battled Moses and his flock before the Israelites took the city. For three thousand years thereafter, the place made little impression. Set on a promontory with a view of Jordan, the Mountains of Edom, and the Dead Sea (a mercury gleam in the distance), modern Arad was founded in 1962 by the Israeli government, in the hope of shifting some of the growing population away from the cities of the coastal plain. The transformation came in an instant: the irrigation systems and the power grid, the housing—bungalows, concrete apartment blocks—the trees and the radar towers, the shopping mall. Arad was soon a frontier town as functional and as dull as the distant suburbs of Los Angeles.
One evening this summer, I went with Oz and his wife, Nily, on one of their desert rambles—first by car, then on foot. “The landscape here is no different than it was in the time of the prophets and Jesus,” Oz said along the way. The hills are bare, but there are wolves, desert hares, jackals. There are Bedouin camps, oases. Oz takes his walks here to clear his mind of the latest news from Jerusalem and Gaza, to “keep perspective on eternity.”
Nily, who has oil-black hair and a wit that is occasionally aimed at the household star, smiles patiently as Amos makes observations that she has undoubtedly heard a hundred times. Amos and Nily met as teen-agers on the kibbutz and have been married for forty-four years. Their children are grown and the distractions are few. On the drive, they showed me the oasis where their grandchildren go camping and ride camels when they visit from the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Haifa. We passed a few archeological signs, Biblical sites. As if on cue, we passed a Bedouin camp, a goat, a camel, the desert tourist’s equivalent of the Empire State Building.
“Amos,” Nily said, tiring of the tour, “let’s make sure we get back for a walk. The sun is getting low.”
Oz stopped the car and, without fear of oncoming traffic, animal or automotive, swung back toward town.
Last year, Oz published a memoir called “Sipour Al Ahava Vehoshekh”—“A Tale of Love and Darkness.” (It is one of the biggest-selling literary works in Israeli history; Nicholas de Lange’s English translation will be published this month by Harcourt.) For many years, Oz has drawn on the facts and landscapes of his life for his novels. What made “A Tale of Love and Darkness” an event is the power with which it entwines the intimate story of an immigrant family—a lonely, depressed mother, a distant father, and their son—with the larger historical story: Europe’s rejection, the frantic search for refuge among Arabs in Palestine, the idealism and the disappointments, the establishment of Israel and the war that followed. Amos is a precocious, secretive boy, a “ceaseless, tireless talker,” confused by overheard news of death camps abroad and civil war at home; he is a boy who plots the history of a new country with toy soldiers and maps spread across the kitchen floor. The book is a digressive, ingenious work that circles around the rise of a state, the tragic destiny of a mother, a boy’s creation of a new self. “I was, if you wish, the Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn of history,” Oz said. “To me it was like sailing alone on a raft on the Mississippi River, except it was a river made of books and words and stories and historical tales and secrets and separations.”
In a novel like Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral,” history seems to assault the characters, wreaking havoc on a desire for tranquillity; it arrives as a shock. That has never been possible in Oz’s part of the world, where war and ethnic tension have been constants. “I know that for people in the West history is something that comes across the television screen,” he said. “This whole book is saturated with history. It is not a piece of tragic chamber music played against a wide screen.”
Oz’s eldest child, his daughter Fania, teaches history at Haifa University. She told me that “A Tale of Love and Darkness” should be read, in part, as an argument about the history of Zionism. The book, she said, portrays Zionism and the creation of Israel as a historical necessity for a people faced with the threat of extinction. It acknowledges the original sin of Israel—the displacement and the suffering of the Palestinians—but, at the same time, defends Zionism against some on the European left and among the Israeli New Historians who challenge the state’s claim to legitimacy even now, almost six decades after its founding. As Amos, Nily, and I were driving from the desert valleys to an area closer to town where we could take a walk at sunset, I mentioned his daughter’s idea.
Amos Oz is descended from te Braz/Klausner family: Braz is short for ("B"en "R"av "A"lexander "Z"iskind) ie. Amos's Oz's GGGG grandfather was the famous scholar, kabbalist, Ha'rav Alexander Ziskind.
Commentary to the Zohar. R. Alexander Susskind b. Moses of Grodno (d. 1793), Lithuanian kabbalist. R. Alexander lived a secluded life in Grodno, never engaging in light conversation so as not to be deterred from study and prayer. Many stories were told about him.
According to a well-substantiated one, several days before Passover in 1790, a Jewish victim of a blood libel was sentenced to death unless he agreed to convert. Alexander, afraid the condemned man would be unable to withstand the ordeal, obtained permission to visit him in prison, and persuaded him to choose martyrdom. The execution was scheduled for the second day of Shavuot; on that day R. Alexander left the synagogue in the middle of the service for the place of execution, heard the condemned man recite the prayer of martyrdom, said "Amen," and returned to the synagogue, reciting the memorial prayer for the martyr's soul.
The second incident relates that R. Alexander was imprisoned in a German town for soliciting money for the Jews of Erez Israel, as it was illegal to send money out of Germany. On being freed, he immediately resumed collecting, ignoring the danger involved.
R. Alexander's most important work, Yesod ve-Shoresh ha-Avodah (Novy Dvor, 1782; corrected edition, Jerusalem, 1959) a book of ethics, touches upon many aspects of Jewish life. It is divided into 12 sections, the final section Sha'ar ha-kolel, concluding with an account of the coming of the Messiah.
According to the author, the basis of divine worship is love of G-d and love of the Jewish people. R. Alexander emphasizes that a Jew must be grieved at the contempt in which the G-d of Israel and the people of Israel are held among the Gentiles, who persecute the chosen people and then ask mockingly, "Where is your G-d?"
He speaks often and with great sorrow of the desolation of the holy city of Jerusalem and of Erez Israel and extols "the greatness of the virtue of living in the Land of Israel."
In R. Alexander's view, the essence of observance is intent (kavvanah); the deed alone, without intention, is meaningless. For this reason, he insisted on clear and meticulous enunciation of each word in prayer, giving many examples of how words are distorted in the course of praying. He also laid down a specific order of study: Talmud, musar, literature, and then Kabbalah. He emphasizes the need for study of the geography of the Bible.
R. Alexander was rigid in the matter of religious observance, threatening violators with severe retribution in the hereafter. He asked every Jew to resign himself to "the four forms of capital punishment of the bet din" and in his will he ordered that upon his death his body be subjected to stoning. Yet the central theme of his work is "worship the L-rd in joy."
His ideas make R. Alexander's writings closely akin to the basic tenets of Hasidism and R. Nahman of Bratslav said of him, "he was a Hasid even before there was Hasidism."
In annotated prayer books, especially in those of the Sephardi rite, his Kavvanot ha-Pashtiyyut, the "intent" of the text of the prayers as set forth in the Yesod ve-Shoresh ha-Avodah, is appended to most of the prayers. He was deeply revered and as long as there was a Jewish community in Grodno, men and women went to pray at his grave.
Descendants of his family who originally went by the name of Braz (initials for Benei Rabbi Alexander Zusskind) later assumed the name Braudes.
About עמוס עוז (עברית)
כולל באור נפלא על הזה"ק [הזהר הקדוש] מאת ... ר' אלכסנדר זיסקינד זצ"ל מהוראדנא ... ובתוכו נכללים גם חדושים מכ"ק מורו ורבו ... ר' אריה ליב [הלוי אפשטיין] זצ"ל אב"ד דק"ק קעניגסבערג. הוגה ונסדר עם הוספות הגהות ... מצויינות ברבועים ובראשם אותיות >א"ה< מאת ... ר' נפתלי הירץ [וויידנבוים] בהרב ... אריה ליב הלוי שליט"א ... ועתה הובא ראשונה לבהד"פ [בתוספת הקדמה] ע"י נכד המחבר ... ר' משה הלוי שליט"א אבד"ק קאמניץ דליטא, בן ... ר' אברהם דוב הלוי זצ"ל אבד"ק הנ"ל ... שנת אז ת'פ'ק'ח'נ'ה' עיני עורים בשולי השער: III (אותיות קיריליות) . היינו שלישי לקובץ "שבעת המאורות", שנספח להוצאת הזוהר, ווילנא תרמ"ב. הסכמות: ר' משה יהושע יהודה ב"ר בנימן [דיסקין], בריסק דליטא, ח אייר תרל"ו; ר' יהודה ליב בן מוהרי"ז [יקותיאל זלמן], הוראדנא, יט מנחם אב תרל"ה; ר' אלי' חיים ב"ר משה מייזיל, לאדז, יז כסלו תרל"ו; ר' ישראל איסר שפירא, מעזריטש, יא אייר תרל"ו; ר' נחום ב"ר עוזיאל, הוראדנא, כה מנחם-אב תרל"ו; ר' אליעזר שמחה בן מוהר"מ [מנחם] מענדיל ראבינאוויטש, לאמזע, א שופטים תרל"ה: ר' שמואל זנוויל במהורי"ז [יעקב זאב קלעפפיש], ווארשא, ב סיון תרל"ו; ר' בנימן דוד ראבינאוויטש, ווארשא, ב מסעי תרל"ו.