Last evening, Israel’s “greatest living writer,” Amos Oz, delivered a lecture at the Mahmoud Darwish Cultural Center in downtown Nazareth. AlManarah hosted the event, which was held in conjunction with the organization’s 10-year anniversary celebration.
Prior to the lecture, Oz visited AlManarah’s offices, recorded segments of his newest book, Judas, for the International Library for the Print-Disabled, and met with a group of local writers including Jawdat Eid and Mohammad Habibullah.
Amos Oz is a well-known figure, both in Israel and abroad, for his beautiful, thought-provoking prose, honest politics, and literary innovation. Wrote British newspaper The Independent in 2009, “to thousands of fellow Israelis, he's a dangerous radical. To others, he's the nation's liberal conscience. Writer Amos Oz has been making waves for decades.” This statement held true last night, as Oz’s lecture drew a diverse crowd to the Cultural Center to hear him speak.
While Oz touched on several different topics in the course of his talk, the main subject was his latest work, Judas, which reimagines the relationship between Jesus of Nazareth and the disciple who eventually betrays him. Perhaps, Oz speculates, a traitor isn’t always merely a traitor. Perhaps he is, ultimately, the most loyal and loving. In the end, Judas was beloved by Christ and in Oz’s recreation of the Biblical story, was the first to die a Christian—when Jesus’ death as a mere mortal proved too much to bear and the former traitor hangs himself.
There is a reason Oz’s writing has staying power—he doesn’t shy away from difficult or controversial topics. He portrays each character—Jews, Arabs, and everyone in between—with honesty and a critical eye. Precisely for this reason, his other works similarly resonate with audiences. One of Oz’s most famous novels, Tales of Love and Darkness, premiered this week as Israeli-American Natalie Portman’s directorial debut.
Oz’s lecture at the Mahmoud Darwish Cultural Center was a definitive success, with more than 100 people and several media outlets in attendance. Oz was gracious, eloquent, and charismatic. It is not difficult to see how he is regarded as Israel’s greatest writer; he sets the bar high, and exceeds readers’ expectations every time.