A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Amos Elon

I see by today's paper that the noted Israeli journalist and writer Amos Elon has died in Italy. His old employer, Haaretz, has a write-up here. The Washington Post says he was 82 and Haaretz 84, for some reason.

I first encountered Elon through his 1971 book, Israelis: Founders and Sons, an intriguing portrait of Israeli society from the foundations of the state through the 1967 war. At a time when the entire Arab world rejected Israel's very existence and Israelis were flush with the confidence of their 1967 victory, he was a warning voice that the occupation would be a negative factor not just for Palestinians but for Israelis as well. It was a rare voice in those days, and reading the book long before I ever visited Israel, it was something of a revelation. He spent his last years in virtual self-exile in Tuscany, telling an interviewer (quoted in the Haaretz obit):
"Nothing has changed here [in Israel] for the past 40 years," he told Ari Shavit in an interview five years ago, expressing his frustration with the country. "The solutions were known already back then. I realized I was saying the same things again and again. I began to bore myself."
If everyone were so self-aware, there'd be a lot less repetitive rhetoric out there. But then, Elon's voice was one Israel and all of us needed to hear. And now silenced.

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