Amos Oz (born in 1939) is the author of many books and the winner of multiple awards. Many consider him to be Israel’s most famous living author. He is a proponent of the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and is outspoken on the subject. He considers religion irrational. He just published a book that should make us think, “Dear Zealots.”[1]


The Book

Dear Zealot is a short small book of 140 large-print pages, which was translated expertly from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen. It is broken into three parts: Dear Zealot; Many Lights, Not One Light; and Dreams Israel Should Let Go of Soon.


The following are some of Oz’s thoughts in Dear Zealot.

  • Fanaticism dates back much earlier than Islam. Earlier than Christianity and Judaism. It is an elemental fixture of human nature, a ‘bad gene.’
  • Fanatics of all kinds, in all places at all times, loath and fear change, suspecting that it is nothing less than a betrayal resulting from dark, base motives.
  • It is not the volume of your voice that defines you as a fanatic, but rather, primarily, your tolerance – or lack thereof – for your opponent’s voices.
  • Fanatics tend to live in a black-and-white world, with a simplistic view of good against evil. The fanatic is in fact a person who can only count to one.
  • The urge to follow the crowd and the passion to belong to the majority are fertile ground for fanatics.
  • One of the distinct hallmarks of the fanatic is his fervent desire to change you so that you will be like him.
  • An example is ultra-Orthodox fanaticism, which secludes itself inside a walled ghetto and defends itself against anything different.
  • I, for one, have never met a fanatic with a sense of humor. Nor have I ever known anyone capable of making a joke at his own expense become a fanatic.
  • To remove the fanaticism that hides inside our souls means ridiculing, just a little, our own convictions; being curious; and trying to take a peek, from time to time, not only through our neighbor’s window but, more important, at the reality from that window, which will necessarily be different from the one seen through our own.


Oz’s thoughts in Many Lights, Not One Light

  • Judaism is a culture, rather than just a religion or a nationality.
  • Jewish culture is analogous to the musical concept of counterpoint, as well as to the notion of human polyphony, whereby the community is viewed as a chorus of different voices, or different instruments orchestrated by an agreed set of rules.
  • Jewish culture has been one of ever-expanding ripples, as though a giant meteor fell into an ocean and the effects are still rippling in an ever-wider circle around the revelation at Sinai.
  • Some people maintain that the secular pioneers that helped the establishment of Israel were no more than unwitting instruments of divine supervision, and that everything they believed in, their entire self-determination, made no difference. They were nothing more than ‘the Messiah’s donkey.’ Such an insult is intolerable.
  • I sometime reduce all the commandments into one: Cause no pain. I am sometimes willing to narrow down humanism and pluralism into one simple formula: Recognize the equal right of all human beings to be different.
  • Disagreement is not a troubling state of weakness, but a vital climate for the growth of a creative life.


Oz’s ideas in Dreams Israel Should Let Go of Soon

  • If there are not two states here in Israel very soon, there will be one. It will be an Arab state that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.
  • Jews and Arabs can and should live together, but I insist on the right of Israeli Jews, like other people, to be the majority, if only on a tiny strip of land.


[1] Houghton Mifflin, Harcourt, 2018.