Portrait of Amos Oz by Piet van den Boog, 2007  (detail) © Marjolein Benard | Flickr
Arts & DesignEssays

An Interview with Amos Oz on Literature, Judaism and Zionism

A conversation with the Israeli author Amos Oz, conducted on November 12th in the guesthouse of the Hamburg Senate, upon receiving the first Siegfried-Lenz Prize.

NF: Bruchim Habaim leHamburg! — Welcome to Hamburg!

AO: Thank you very much. Being the first recipient of the Siegfried Lenz literary award is a great honor but also a very deep sadness, because we have lost Siegfried Lenz just a few weeks ago, and I was so much hoping that he will be the one who will hand me the award. …

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An ironic flag: the German-Israeli connection as depicted in Berlin © Marla Showfer | Flickr
Essays

Israelis in Berlin and The Elephant in the Room

Notes on migration, pudding, an island economy, and frustrating metaphors (with cream on top)

“Fight from Tel Aviv, not from Berlin,” demanded former Minister of Immigrant Absorption Uzi Baram in Haaretz, while the New York Times  featured the infantile (or “still adolescent”) Israeli society as the center of frustration for many Israelis now clamoring to Berlin because of the impossible price of living. The coverage of Baram’s outcry in the German national and German Jewish press resisted the Holocaust metaphors only barely. …

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Exhibit showing "One culture: Many facets. The growth of pluralism in modern Jewish spiritual life" at the Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv © Sodabottle | Wikimedia Commons
Essays

Israel and the Jewish Diaspora

In 1990 the scholar David Vital wrote how Jews in the Diaspora and Jews in Israel were heading in different directions. For better or for worse, this observation is proving to be increasingly accurate. For many Diaspora Jews, however, this direction of travel is undesirable. There exists a strong bond between Diaspora Jewry and Israel, and should this bond fray there are serious concerns that it may do irreparable harm to the Jewish people. As such, Diaspora Jews spend considerable effort to retain ties with Israel, including sending their children to Israel as part of youth group programs. The major Diaspora Jewish organizations also devote considerable resources to keeping up ties with Israel through a variety of sponsorships and public discourse. Yet, all this activity may well be for naught if Israel does not start to pay greater attention to Diaspora concerns about Israeli security policy. …

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Book cover of Theocratic Democracy: The Social Construction of Religious and Secular Extremism © 2010 Oxford University Press | Amazon.com
EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionTheory & Practice

The Social Condition: Religion and Politics in Israel

Once I commit myself to a new theoretical project, I start realizing how my reading can illuminate it. Sometimes this involves a concerted effort. Thus these days I am re-reading Georg Simmel with an intuition that he can be a key theoretical guide in understanding the social condition. But sometimes this is just a matter of reading something of general interest and realizing that it contributes to my project.  Thus I thought of my exploration with Iddo Tavory of the unresolvable dilemmas built into the social fabric when I was reading Nachman Ben Yehuda’s  book, Theocratic Democracy: The Social Construction of Religious and Secular Extremism.

Ben Yehuda, my old friend and colleague, is studying in his book Jewish extremism in the Jewish state. He investigates deviance in the religious community as a way to analyze the conflict between the religious and secular in Israel. …

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Ariel Sharon, pictured during a defense meeting held at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, 2002. © Helene C. Stikkel | Dept. of Defense
EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Ariel Sharon (1928 – 2014)

Reflecting on the myth of a Zionist martyr and the reportage in Israel and beyond

Ariel Sharon was perhaps the last Israeli soldier-statesman whose life was framed with the Zionist myth of martyrology. Although there surely is no shortage of commanders who are mythical figures and became politicians in contemporary Israel, Sharon joins an exclusive club of those mythic figures of men in the history of Zionism whose lives ended mysteriously, untimely, not in war, and/or whose death stories were contested and ambiguous. Theodore Herzl, who died young, and is rumored to have suffered from syphilis. Joseph Trumpeldor who died protecting Tel Chai in 1920 and, as the myth holds (Yael Zerubavel provides a detailed account), said before dying “never mind, it is good to die for our country.” Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a national-religious law student. Yasser Arafat, whom Israel tried and in the end probably succeeded to poison or otherwise kill during his long career (2004). Rafael Eitan, a former chief of staff and politician: a wave pulled him into the sea in the Ashdod harbor in which he was a project manager (2004), and Sharon, who was in coma for eight years starting in January 2006. His social death was blurred, extended even beyond the span of “the king’s two bodies.” Shortly after his stroke, streets and institutions were already named after him. …

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