Amos Oz, born Amos Klausner, spent the early years of his childhood in his family home in the Jerusalem suburb of Kerem Avraham. The politics of the Klausner family were strongly tied to the idea of a Jewish state in British-mandated Palestine; within the broad spectrum of Zionism, they identified with the right-wing branch, perhaps even with the Revisionist cause led by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Following his family’s preferences, Oz attended the Orthodox Jewish school Telkemoni in Jerusalem. The dominating influence of Oz’s father, a member of the urban intellectual middle class and a published scholar of comparative literature, almost certainly played a role in the apparent rebelliousness of the adolescent son. Oz described his father’s character in the following terms: “Like every good Zionist he wanted his offspring to be at least two things: Nimrod the Hunter and the saintly Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav.” In other words, his sons should have the force to fight but should also bring honor to his family.
By the time Oz was fourteen (five years after Israel’s independence), he decided to leave his family home, change his surname from Klausner to Oz, and join Kibbutz Hulda, which had been founded as part of the experimental Zionist community in 1940. There he gained a new identity living as part of the local agricultural productive force and sharing communal responsibilities with fellow kibbutz members. Many of the themes for his later writings would be based on this grassroots exposure to idealistic Zionism. Another legacy of this decision to change his lifestyle may be visible in his association with the leftist or labor-oriented political philosophy of the party founded by another famous kibbutznik, David Ben-Gurion.
Oz remained a resident of Kibbutz Hulda through the years, leaving only for three years of obligatory service in the Israeli army, two years of study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and several writer’s sabbaticals abroad, including a year as a visiting Fellow of St. Cross College, Oxford, and, from 1986 to 1987, in residence at Colorado College in the United States. Within his own community, his skills as a writer served the...
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