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Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  390 ratings  ·  69 reviews
'Concise, evocative... Dear Zealots is not just a brilliant book of thoughts and ideas it is a depiction of the struggle of one man who, for decades, has insisted on keeping a sharp, strident and lucid perspective in the face of chaos and at times of madness' David Grossman, winner of the Man Booker International Prize

This essential collection of three new essays was
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published April 19th 2018 by Chatto Windus (first published 2017)
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Dear Zealots: Letters from a divided land

‘Dear Zealots’ (2017) is a little non-fiction book containing three updated and revised essays based on lectures which Amos Oz gave in 2002 and which were already published in the book How to Cure a Fanatic, originally published in 2002.
I read the Dutch translation, ‘Beste Fanatici’.

Amos Oz is clearly a good person, and a good writer, but I was underwhelmed by his essays. These essays struck me most of all as deprived of any pragmatic value.

In his
Bill Kerwin
Mar 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, judaica

The Israeli novelist Amos Oz succumbed to cancer on December 28, 2018, at the age of 78. This small book of essays—three essays, to be precise—is the last book that he published before he died, and this little book—and their author—represent a more secular, liberal approach to being Jewish, something less and less common in the Israel of today.

The book’s first short essay, “Dear Zealots,” is an open letter to fanatics in general and Israeli fanatics in particular. Fanatics, Oz believes, are
Patty Smith
Many thanks to Netgalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Amos Oz for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advanced copy.

One thing is clear, Amos Oz loves Israel. It is his home, his ancestors’ homeland and it figures that he has very strong views on where its future lies. Amoz Oz is a well known, award winning, Israeli author whose works have been translated all over the world. I am a fan, having read several of his novels, so I was
"Self-sacrifice does not always represent an erasing of the 'I'. Self-sacrifice can sometimes be a well-honed weapon that the fanatic wields for destructive emotional purposes. Moreover, those who are eaget to sacrifice themselves will not find it difficult to sacrifice others."
--From "Dear Zealots" essay from Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land

This was my introduction to Amoz Oz, the well-known and prolific Israeli writer who passed away in late 2018. I often life to start with essays and
Maria Carmo
I absolutely loved getting to know this Author who recently died. His attempt at being totally fair, yet utterly passionate about Israel and the Jewish culture, enchanted me. I know that for many, who are fanatical in one sense or another, his thesis may be complex to digest or accept. Yet, for someone looking with caring attention from the outside, he seem to hit the nail and strike a balance. His defense of culture as being as important as religious orthodoxy strikes a point with me. I also ...more
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bibliocase
In his latest work representing a collection of three essays (two short and rousing pieces punctuated by a long and complicated socio-cultural-philosophical didactic), the prolific Israeli author Amos Oz regales us on the topics that have been close to his heart and in relation to which he nurses deep seated beliefs. Thought provoking, controversial and engaging, “Dear Zealots” (“the book”) reinforces Mr. Oz’s perceptions revolving around the perpetual unrest that the nation state of Israel ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three essays. First one is excellent about fanatics and fanaticism, its characteristics and how to deal with it. Has fresh insights. Second is the weakest about Judaism in Israel, claiming it must change and that it does not continue the true Jewish tradition who isn’t afraid of asking questions. The third claims for the two state solution as the only feasible option for Israel. I found it lacking true answers to the main claims against this solution, instead of suggesting practical steps to ...more
Berit Lundqvist
Jun 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Three and a half stars, rounded up.

The book consists of three essays about Israel in the modern world. The first one is an update of the messages about fanaticism in How to Cure a Fanatic. The second one is about Jewish culture, and the third one is about the future of Israel, and the author’s preferred two-state solution.

I especially liked the second essay, which painted a broad picture of how different Jewish culture can be, depending on geographical position as well as wether it’s secular or
This small book, consisting of 3 essays was definitely a good choice for an introduction to Amos Oz's works. Very valuable and enriching read. Hungry for more!
Bob H
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a succinct, clearly-written (and well-translated) and thoughtful book, a gathering of three essays, in which he meditates on fanaticism, Israeli Judaism and the future of Israel/Palestine.

"Dear Zealots" is a reflective, wide-ranging essay on the nature of zealotry -- fanaticism, and while centered on the present day and on the Middle East, does consider its currency in the world at large. It's generalized, and intriguing.

"Many Lights, Not One Light" is the central essay in a number of
Gal gilboa
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best review for this book is to simply write selected quotes from the book.

"it is not your voice that defines you as a fanatic, but rather your tolerance or lack of tolerance for the voices of your opponents"

"Righteousness without windows and doors is probably the hallmark of this disease"

"A person who is unable or unwilling to rank the evil may become the servant of evil. Those who "tuck in one basket" Apartheid and colonialism and isis and Zionism and the breach of political correctness
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Yehuda Amichai poem at the beginning should be required reading in schools. Three essays. The first addresses the danger of zealotry in the modern world and offers curiosity and imagination as an antidote. The second explores Jewish identity today, and the third looks at the two-state solution. If you can read only one, I recommend the first since it's most relevant to our current fractured world.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An interesting and often wise collection of short essays primarily about the uptick in zealotry, from many angles, and a call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Israel simply cannot take on the entire world and must find a way to live in the hotbed of the Middle East. In a way, it is like saying keep your enemies close.
Anwesha Bhattacharjee
Powerful. I think the small book reiterates the thought that there are many lights and many ways of living, that there is hope, if we choose to be tolerant. Applicable to people of all religions and nations.
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This has gotten mixed reviews in the professional reviewing world, but unsurprisingly I loved it.

Oz's "letters" are really three essays. Two are on fanaticism: Islamic fanaticism and Israeli/Jewish fanaticism. The third, smallest essay is titled "Dreams Israel Should Let Go Of Soon." Here, Oz sounds the most like a biblical prophet, predicting the end of the world if people don't shape up (namely, the Jewish state will ultimately cease to exist if there's not acceptance soon of the two state
Cheryl Gatling
This little book, a collection of three essays, is hard to summarize.

The first, "Dear Zealots" deals with the problem that fanaticism seems to be on the rise everywhere. Muslim terrorists get the most blame and press, but he said that there are also Jewish zealots, and Christian zealots, and the problem goes back to the beginning of history. Every zealot wants to blame all the world's problems, and eliminate them. Oz spends some time describing what goes on in a zealot's mind, and then some
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first introduction to Amos Oz and it was a good one indeed! “Dear Zealots” consists of 3 essays that are woven together into a compact book. The thread that ties the essays together is the theme and exploration of fanaticism. The first essay addresses it head-on, in the other two essays, it is an element and factor of other issues (Judaism as a culture/nationality rather than simply a religion and the two-state solution). The book, for me, was incredibly thoughtful and ...more
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Amos Oz is one of Israel's most well loved writers of fiction and non-fiction. The title of the book intrigued me, and the first sentence, "How do you cure a fanatic?", convinced me that I wanted to hear what he had to say on this subject. Told in the form of three essays, Oz writes at length about the tenets of Jewish culture -- not to be confused with religion -- and argues that the only solution to the Jewish/Palestinian conflict is a two state solution.

Oz believes the core of Jewish
Alisa Wilhelm

Three essays are gathered in this short book:

1. Dear Zealots - a look at fanaticism in all its guises. How it starts, how it manifests, its characteristics, and some ideas to inoculate culture against it. I thought it is worth reading especially by Brazilians at this moment. It certainly describes more than half the country to a T.

2. Many Lights, Not One Light - a strong argument for democracy's place in Jewish culture. A combat against theocracy and monarchy, citing examples of
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yep, I have to read more Amoz Oz. I loved his novel, Judas, and I loved this brief collection of three essays (especially "Many Lights, Not One Light"). I hope to borrow some of his questions regarding Judaism to apply in a Unitarian Universalist context:
"What should we do with the heritage of all the generations? What stands in the center? What on the margins? What should we add? How should we add it? And how do we reject the outmoded elements?"
And his advice regarding the squabble over the
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
I was enthralled, from the epigraph ("The Place Where We Are Right," by Yehuda Amichai) through the last page of this short, intense book. Oz is writing about the current state of affairs in Israel--and that country's place in the millennia-long tradition of Jewish culture--and he is a trustworthy, sane guide to those topics. But the depth of his perceptions means his observations ring true about humanity more broadly, and at times he could as easily have been writing about today's polarized ...more
Louise Silk
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous well-written book. This man knows how to make sense of a senseless situation.

The attributes fanatics are missing: curiosity, imagination, and humor, are what we need as the antitode to end their one-sidedness.

I like being a citizen of a country where there are eight and a half million prime ministers, eight and a half million prophets, eight and a half million messiahs. each of us has our one personal formula for redemption, or at least for a solution. Everyone shouts, and few listen.
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am out of my depth in terms of evaluating Amos Oz's contentions regarding Israel in the last third of this remarkable little book, but I am humbled and awed by his arguments. His description of what makes Judaism Judaism in the second section of the book is beautiful, and was almost enough to make this spiritually homeless lapsed Catholic want to convert! As far as his diagnosis of the disease of zealotry that he begins with, and carries throughout the book, I believe he is spot on. The bottom ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
How do you rate a book that is really well written (what else would you expect from Amos Oz) but one with which you disagree and that you didn't enjoy reading? These essays are a fast read but I found them to be from a singular point of view and rather depressing. If you choose to read this book please also read pieces from Daniel Gordis or Micheal Orin to get a more well rounded view of the situation.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an early release of this book in exchange for an
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am now a little less confused about the Israeli-Arab situation, but only just a little. Oz has another point of view, a reasonable one in my opinion, in contrast with one of my medical providers who thinks Israel can do no wrong. Not that I would trot out Oz's opinions as my own in our discussions. I want to keep my head on my shoulders.
Francine Maessen
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Initially I was a bit afraid I might not know enough about the context of the situations Oz writes about, but that worked out pretty well. These essays are actually really relaxed and accessible. His political stance sounded a lot like my personal opinions, but although that was nice to read, it also made it a bit boring for me: it didn't challenge me, because obviously I agreed with everything he wrote.
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful ending to a remarkable writing career and personal life! Up-to-date almost until his last moments. But do read "A Tale of Love and Darkness" first, and "In the Land of Israel" (written in 1983) as the other bookend to this book. We have lost an amazing and brilliant and compassionate soul, and artist of the Hebrew language.
Mike Witcombe
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Three concise, eloquent, and powerful essays. Regulars may find some of them a bit too familiar - two of the three essays have been published in different forms in other books - but this is a compelling introduction for everyone else. The second essay, “Many Lights, Not One Light”, a defence of Jewish pluralism, is particularly brilliant.
Margaret Klein
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
This book is a gem. Amos Oz, Israeli, novelist, leftist, peacenik, has created a book of prose that reads like a pean to peace. He captures the philosophical argument so well and precisely in lovely, concise language. We will miss his voice.
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Amos Oz (Hebrew: עמוס עוז; born Amos Klausner) was an Israeli writer, novelist, journalist and intellectual. He was also a professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba. He was regarded as Israel's most famous living author.

Oz's work has been published in 42 languages in 43 countries, and has received many honours and awards, among them the Legion of Honour of France, the Goethe
“a prominent israeli writer, sami michael, once told of a long car journey with a driver. At some point, the driver explained to Michael how important, indeed how urgent, it is for us Jews “to kill all the Arabs.” Sami Michael listened politely, and instead of reacting with horror, denunciation, or disgust, he asked the driver an innocent question: “And who, in your opinion, should kill all the Arabs?” “Us! The Jews! We have to! It’s either us or them! Can’t you see what they’re doing to us?” “But who, exactly, should actually kill all the Arabs? The army? The police? Firemen, perhaps? Or doctors in white coats, with syringes?” The driver scratched his head, pondered the question, and finally said, “We’ll have to divvy it up among us. Every Jewish man will have to kill a few Arabs.” Michael did not let up: “All right. Let’s say you, as a Haifa man, are in charge of one apartment building in Haifa. You go from door to door, ring the bells, and ask the residents politely, ‘Excuse me, would you happen to be Arabs?’ If the answer is yes, you shoot and kill them. When you’re done killing all the Arabs in the building, you go downstairs and head home, but before you get very far you hear a baby crying on the top floor. What do you do? Turn around? Go back? Go upstairs and shoot the baby? Yes or no?” A long silence. The driver considers. Finally he says, “Sir, you are a very cruel man!” This story exposes the confusion sometimes found in the fanatic’s mind: a mixture of intransigence with sentimentality and a lack of imagination.” 2 likes
“Možda je samo smrt ''nepovratna'', a i to ću jednog dana ispitati sasvim izbliza i intimno.” 1 likes
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