An Israeli writer’s final word to his fellow citizens

Amos Oz feared that fanaticism was rising in Israel as well as in the West.

Israeli author Amos Oz has for many years been an important and respected voice for peace, a conscience for his society. A prolific thinker and writer with some 40 books—a mix of fiction and nonfiction—to his credit, Oz has been a staunch advocate for peace with Pales­tinians and for two separate states. He personifies the aspirations and vision of the Israeli political left. This slim volume is the last word from Oz, who died in December at the age of 79. The book is almost an ethical will addressed to his countrymen, a call for a change not only of political direction but of heart.

Oz fears that fanaticism and zealotry are rising in Israel as well as in the West. Fanaticism is not limited to religious communities or political extremists. It is a primordial characteristic of the human condition, a contagion that slithers into every sector of society. “How does one cure a fanatic?” he asks on the first page, admitting that he brings no grand plan, no secret power or military wisdom for defeating armed zealots. If fanaticism is to be defeated, it must be done in novel ways, Oz suggests, touting the value of curiosity and imagination.

Reaching out to those whose opinions differ from his own, Oz intends to ex­plain, illuminate, and, if possible, convince. The book is neither a psychological exploration of a mindset nor a sociological treatise on the use of aggression, which he abhors more than violence. It is an anguished cry, an extended question about the life or death of the state of Israel as a state of the Jewish people.