We differ on politics, but 'we're one nation,' minister says

David Grossman, critic of Israeli policies, awarded Israel Prize for literature

Announcing choice, Education Minister Naftali Bennett lauds left-leaning author’s ‘deep wisdom, sensitivity to fellow human beings and unique linguistic style’

Israeli author David Grossman (Kobi Kalmanovitz)
Israeli author David Grossman (Kobi Kalmanovitz)

World renowned Israeli author David Grossman was named Monday as a winner of Israel’s top civilian honor, the Israel Prize, for a “series of masterpieces” during his 35-year career.

Grossman, 64, is already one of Israel’s most celebrated writers, and the winner of three top Hebrew-language honors: the prestigious Sapir literary prize in 2001, the city of Tel Aviv’s Bialik literary prize in 2004 and the 2007 Emet prize for his contributions to Israeli culture. Last year, he won the Man Booker International Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world, for his novel “A Horse Walks into a Bar.”

“I’m thrilled to have just told David Grossman that he won the Israel Prize for literature on the State of Israel’s 70th anniversary,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said at a conference in Jerusalem on Monday.

“Grossman is one of the most exciting, profound and influential voices in Israeli literature. With deep wisdom, sensitivity to fellow human beings and a unique linguistic style, he has become an internationally renowned artist. We are honored that he is one of our own,” Bennett said.

Diaspora Minister Nafatli Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 3, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

“‘Someone to run with,’ indeed,” the education minister concluded, in a reference to one of Grossman’s well-known novels.

Grossman is known for his left-leaning views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a fact noted by Bennett, head of the right-wing nationalist-religious Jewish Home party. Announcing the prize during his talk at the right-wing Jerusalem Conference underway Monday in Jerusalem, Bennett acknowledged his political differences with Grossman. “I know we don’t hold the same political positions, but it makes no difference,” the minister said, adding, “We’re one nation.” He noted that Grossman lost a son in combat during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Grossman is an outspoken critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a high-profile peace activist.

According to a statement from the committee that awarded the Israel Prize, which is given annually in four fields — the humanities, science, culture and lifetime achievement — Grossman in over three decades of literary activity had produced a “series of masterpieces” that have become recognized worldwide for their unique style and insight.

“Since the 1980s, David Grossman has held a central place in Israeli culture, and has been one of the deepest, most exciting and most influential voices in our literature,” the prize committee said.

The statement added: “In novels, stories, essays, his documentary writing, and his prolific writing for children, he has produced a series of masterpieces that showcase a rich imagination, profound personal wisdom and human sensitivity, together with a clear moral stance and a unique and rooted linguistic style. The translations of his books into dozens of languages have transformed him into one of the best known, most admired and most loved Israeli authors in the world. For all these reasons, we have found David Grossman worthy of the Israel Prize for literature for the year 5758.”

The prize committee was chaired by literature professor Avner Holtzman and included as members scholars Aminadav Dickman and Yehudah Friedlander and prominent author Yehudit Katzir.

The Israel Prize is awarded each year in a special public ceremony on Independence Day, which this year falls on the night of April 18.

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