Death of a prophet: 8 things to know for December 30
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Death of a prophet: 8 things to know for December 30

Amos Oz, who chronicled over half a century of life in Israel, is remembered in newspapers as a mensch and literary giant who never faltered in his moral convictions

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Amos Oz takes part in the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem on May 3, 2010. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Amos Oz takes part in the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem on May 3, 2010. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

1. Israeli newspapers on Sunday overflow with tributes to Amos Oz, the acclaimed author and outspoken peace activist, who died Friday after a brief battle with cancer.

  • Tributes poured in for Oz over the weekend from across the political spectrum, including from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose policies he bitterly criticized.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth dedicates much of the paper to Oz, running 10 full pages of tributes from fellow Israeli writers who remember him as as a “mensch” and one of the greatest authors in the country’s history.
  • AB Yehoshua calls Oz “one of the greats” of Hebrew literature, but more importantly, he says his longtime colleague taught him to take a public stand, even when the idea is unpopular. He recalls Oz as “brave and steadfast” in his criticism of Israel’s military control of the West Bank, saying he was “the symbol of a man of spirit who took moral responsibility without losing solidarity.”
  • David Grossman writes that Oz was one of the major influences in his life and career, and similarly praises him for his unwavering commitment to his beliefs. “When such a person is uprooted from our lives — and I think many in Israel are feeling this way even if they disagreed with his views — there is something among us that diminishes.”
Israeli authors and commentators David Grossman, left and Amos Oz, center, listen to A.B. Yehoshua, right, during a joint press conference in Tel Aviv on August 10, 2006.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

2. The pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom also dedicates most of its coverage to Oz’s passing, leading its front page with the headline, “The Darkness after the Love,” referring to Oz’s stirring memoir “A Tale of Love and Darkness.”

  • The paper describes Oz as a literary giant who “loved the country as much as he criticized it.” Columnist Dror Eydar eulogizes him as a “a prophet of outrage, a defender of Israel and an intellectual.”

3. In Haaretz, Israel’s most prominent left-wing newspaper, Oz is hailed as the moral beacon for the country’s embattled left. In its editorial, Haaretz praises Oz for “represent[ing] the voice of sanity, of reason, of love for humanity and the homeland” in the face of “growing fanaticism” in Israel.

  • “In recent years, Oz increasingly felt himself to be a voice crying in the political wilderness…. [but] Nevertheless, Oz refused to despair,” it says.
  • Haaretz columnists similarly heap praise on Oz for his brand of patriotism and outspoken criticism of what he believed to be moral failures on Israel’s part. Gideon Levy calls Oz “the last of the moral Zionists” whose life and writings cast a light on the “overwhelming darkness” taking hold of Israel.

4. The Times of Israel’s Jessica Steinberg recalls a 2016 interview with Oz following the publication of his book “Judas,” in which he discussed the extent of his influence in Israeli politics.

  • “I don’t know of any way of measuring if I even moved a single grain of sand, but I do it. People expect writers to hold the torch and light the way through different patches of history. Will they succeed? Are they good guides or terrible guides? There’s no blanket answer.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked announce they are quitting the Jewish Home and setting up the New Right party, at a press conference in Tel Aviv on December 29, 2018. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

5. After pages of eulogies, photos and farewell tributes to Oz, newspapers get down to the second-biggest story of the weekend: the newly launched right-wing political party aimed at winning over secular voters ahead of snap elections in April.

  • On Saturday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced they were leaving the religious, pro-settlement Jewish Home party and would instead lead a movement called “The New Right” as an alternative to Netanyahu’s Likud party.
  • But Israeli media seem wary of yet another party in the Knesset. On its front page, Yedioth calls the New Right “Likud 2.0,” and its columnists are skeptical the party will be able to pose a meaningful challenge to the ruling Likud.

6. Yedioth’s Sima Kadmon says the risky move by Bennett and Shaked is the direct result of Netanyahu “humiliating” the two last month, when he essentially forced them to back down from an ultimatum demanding the Defense Ministry portfolio.

7. Haaretz also strikes a skeptical note over the new right-wing party. Yossi Verter says Bennett was “taking his revenge” against his party’s pro-settlement constituents who betrayed him by voting for Netanyahu. He calls their Saturday press conference, in which they “ditched the settlers,” a “brave but very dangerous gamble for the entire pot.”

8. The Times of Israel’s Raoul Wootliff says Bennett appears to be making a bid to replace Netanyahu in the upcoming elections, and has abandoned the traditional religious Zionist establishment “in favor of a more energetic version even less beholden to democratic rule and willing to toy publicly with explosive ideas — like backing vast judicial reform and pushing an aggressive plan to annex settlement blocs.”

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