Oz is a world-class literary master of such [complicated] situations, but Dear Zealots is not at all open-ended. It is full of Oz’s unambiguous condemnations of other people’s zealotry, and perhaps inevitably, it descends into a single-mindedness of its own ... Asking those [difficult] questions is what literature does best, and Oz poses them magnificently in his fiction. But this book is no novel, and Oz does very little imagining here. What emerges instead is an eloquent description of Jewish culture’s 'vibrant anarchist gene that engenders constant and vehement dispute,' and the tradition’s appetite for multiple perspectives and interpretations ... I love Oz’s novels and memoirs, which have often recalibrated my thinking. For these reasons I was disappointed to find this book lacking in imagination, especially regarding the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in our current century. Ultimately it leaves far too much from the past 20 years unsaid ... It feels like an even greater betrayal for Oz to wrap up his prophecies with a cute one-liner such as: 'It’s hard to be a prophet in the land of prophets. There’s too much competition' ... it’s time for Oz’s imagination to come up with some new material.
The trilogy of trenchant, well-argued essays that comprise Dear Zealots represent decades of accrued wisdom about the situation into which the author was born (Jerusalem, 1939) and spent his career thinking and writing about ... In Jessica Cohen’s nimble translation, Oz’s sentences are spare, declarative, and peppered with wit ... While the voice of Amos Oz will be missed, we have his words as a moral guide.
Originally published in Hebrew in 2017 and appearing now in Jessica Cohen’s English translation, Dear Zealots is a rallying cry to liberal Zionists who are growing worried that their vision of Israel’s future has not come to pass. The book attempts its best impression of clarity, directness, and level-headed optimism. It’s a narcotic cocktail of reassurance and shallow philosophizing for those moderates waiting for the age of extremism to pass so they can reclaim control of Israel and bring matters to their reasonable conclusion.