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Amos Oz, revered Israeli writer and peace activist, dies at 79

Anton Denisov, Reuters | Israeli novelist Amos Oz attending a meeting with Russian writers in Moscow on September 7, 2006.

Acclaimed Israeli novelist Amos Oz, a tireless campaigner for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, has died of cancer at the age of 79, his daughter said on Friday.


One of the most widely-translated Israeli writers, who authored more than 20 books and some 500 articles, Oz died after a battle with cancer.

Over a 50-year career, Oz chronicled his country's rise from the ashes of the Holocaust and its struggles – among Jews and Arabs, secularists and zealots, conservatives and liberals.

His writing – witty, scholarly, and often moody and erotic – won international plaudits, and he was a frequent bookies' favourite for the Nobel Prize for Literature. But his political views sometimes stirred up rancour at home.

A dedicated peace activist, he was a lifelong supporter of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urged restraint during Israel's recent wars in Gaza.

"To those who love him, thank you," his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger wrote on Twitter.

Born Amos Klausner in Jerusalem to Eastern European immigrants, Oz moved to a kibbutz at 15 after his mother's suicide. He changed his surname to the Hebrew for "might".

Oz fought in the 1967 and 1973 Middle East wars, experiences that tinged his advocacy for territorial compromise with the Palestinians though he was more circumspect about prospects for accommodation with Islamist group Hamas ruling Gaza.

"We cannot become one happy family because we are not one, we are not happy, we are not family. We are two unhappy families. We have to divide the house into two smaller next-door apartments," he told Deutsche Welle in an interview marking Israel's 70th anniversary this year.

"There is no point in even fantasising that after 100 years of bloodshed and anger and conflict Jews and Arabs will jump into a honeymoon bed and start making love not war."

‘Between friends with Amos Oz’: Watch France 24’s 2013 interview with the acclaimed author

Oz studied philosophy and Hebrew literature at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. "Elsewhere, Perhaps", his first novel and an examination of relationships on a fictional kibbutz, was published in 1966.

In his later years, he taught Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev while living in the nearby desert town of Arad, where he had moved to salve his son's asthma.

'Amos Oz was not a pacifist but a combatant for peace'

Among his dozens of books, widely translated abroad from Hebrew, was "A Tale of Love and Darkness," a memoir that actress and director Natalie Portman adapted for the screen in 2016.

Oz was the recipient of numerous awards in Israel and abroad, including France's Prix Fémina, which he won in 1988 for his novel "Black Box".

"It was a tale of love and light, and now, a great darkness," Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement eulogising Oz. "Rest in peace, dear Amos. You gave us great pleasure."


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