Israeli author Amos Oz has passed away, aged 79.
Oz, the winner of the Israel Prize for literature, was born in Jerusalem in 1939, and raised on Kibbutz Hulda, near Rehovot. He later lived in Arad, in the south, due to his asthma and the desert climate was better for his breathing.
A peace activist who wrote about Jewish-Arab relations, Oz studied philosophy and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
He began publishing his work in 1961 and has published more than 18 books in Hebrew, including novels, novellas, collections of short stories and essays, and some 500 articles and essays for Israeli and international periodicals.
Most of his famous works, including Black Box, A Tale of Love and Darkness, My Michael and In the Land of Israel, were translated into more than 40 languages.
His daughter Fania tweeted: “My beloved father, Amos Oz, a wonderful family man, an author, a man of peace and moderation, died today peacefully after a short battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his lovers and knew it to the end.
May his good legacy continue to amend the world.”
My beloved father, Amos Oz, a wonderful family man, an author, a man of peace and moderation, died today peacefully after a short battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his lovers and knew it to the end.
May his good legacy continue to amend the world.
— Fania Oz-Salzberger פניה עוז-זלצברגר (@faniaoz) December 28, 2018
Oz was shortlisted for the International Man Booker Prize in 2017 alongside fellow Israeli novelist and eventual winner David Grossman for his novel Horse Walks Into A Bar.
On winning, Grossman paid tribute to Oz, saying: “Amos is my friend and my teacher, and it’s very meaningful to be on the same list as him… today there are so many wonderful wonderful writers in Israel that deserve to be translated and to be read.”
Oz has also served as a visiting fellow at Oxford University, an author in residence at the Hebrew University, and writer in residence at Colorado College.
Before beginning his university studies, Oz spent three years in the Israel Defence Forces, and returned to duty during the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
His military service helped hm to formulate a dovish political stance, and he has been active in promoting dialogue and peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours. He has also written extensively about Israel’s conflict with the Arabs.
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said Oz was one of the “great writers – not just of Israel or the Jewish people, but of the whole of humanity. Our generation has lost one of its most insightful voices.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said: “He was a story of love and light and now a darkness has fallen. He was a literary titan, the glory of our creativity. Rest peacefully, Amos.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Oz as “one of the greatest authors of the State of Israel. He contributed a huge amount to the re-birth of the Hebrew language… He was a brave man and good friend.”
Netanyahu added that he visited Oz in hospital, but “I didn’t know he would die so quickly.”
Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Isaac Herzog: “Amos Oz will be remembered as a giant! His writing has influenced generations of Israelis, Jews and followers all over the world.
“His original and rich language, his moral strength and plight for justice and peace will be his eternal legacy. Heartfelt condolences to his family!”
“Amos Oz is a great loss to Israeli culture,” Foreign Minister Deputy, Tzipi Hotovely tweeted. “His works will remain the as inalienable assets for Israeli literature.”
Arab List Knesset Member Ayman Odeh said: “I have met Amos Oz several times. Even when we argued [quite a bit!], he was a man of collaboration, he supported the end of the occupation. He was not afraid to say what was on his mind and did it with unusual talent.”
He is survived by his wife, Nili, and three children, Fania – herself an author and academic – Galia, one of Israel’s leading children’s authors, and Daniel, a poet, musician and writer.