Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land, Amos Oz 2017

Oz, a prolific contemporary Israeli writer who died last year, writes with passion and a keen eye about the challenges facing today’s Israel.  In three essays about the threats and opportunities of a land divided by religious and political passions, he shows his love for his native country and his deep concern about its future.  In the eponymous first essay he decries the fanatacism and intolerance that drives all zealotry whether religious or xenophobic.  He pleads for tolerance and the willingness to accept differences and the reality that nobody has an exclusive right to ‘knowledge’ or ‘correct thought.’  In Many Lights, Not One Light, he identifies the primary Jewish values of justice and ’cause no pain’ that are threatened by the politically dominant religious minority in Israel and their intolerance for alternative views.  He argues that Jewish culture is more important today than the endless minor adjustments to Jewish Law after 3000 years.  The final essay, Dreams Israel Should Let Go Of, addresses the need for the two state solution rejecting both the anti-democratic and the ‘Jews living in the minority’ scenarios of continuing with the current Netanyahu policies.  He urges Israel to distinguish between the temporary and the permanent and describes the ‘elephant in the room’, the Arabs playing the long game while Israel is counting on the help of an America that is led by a mercurial and unpredictable president.  Crisply written, well reasoned, passionately argued, this is a love letter, albeit a very worried one, from an Israeli intellectual on the left. Worth reading for anyone interested in Israel, Middle East politics, and the world.

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