cover image Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land

Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land

Amos Oz. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $23 (160p) ISBN 978-1-328-98700-6

Readers unfamiliar with Israeli author and public intellectual Oz (Judas) will find this collection of three essays, adapted from a series of lectures, a good introduction to his nuanced perspective. The title entry, about “the nature of fanaticism and the ways we might curtail it,” will have the broadest appeal; Oz examines zealotry in general terms, noting that it predates Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and is not currently limited to radical Islam. His unabashed willingness to discuss “the fanaticism in almost all of Jewish-Israeli society” stems from his experiences while growing up in British-ruled Jerusalem. There, along with other children, he threw stones at the occupying troops in what Oz provocatively terms the “original intifada.” His refusal to exempt himself from the label of fanatic suggests a way forward—of individuals embracing the responsibility of “handling the little fanatic who hides, more or less, inside each of our souls.” Oz is similarly clear-eyed in the other two essays, “Many Lights, Not One Light,” an analysis of Judaism, and “Dreams Israel Should Let Go of Soon.” Providing a worthy companion volume to Yossi Klein Halevi’s Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, Oz’s book leaves readers with a strong message about the need for a greater societywide openness to doubt and ambiguity. (Nov.)