The Book Experience Volume 2 | Judas by Amos Oz

The Book Experience is an ongoing series dedicated to reading, engaging, and experiencing books outside of the pages. This week: Judas by Amos Oz.

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To quote Jewish philosopher, art historian, and BBC presenter Simon Schama quoting William Faulkner, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

In Judas, Israeli novelist Amos Oz follows the thread of modern-day clashes between Christians and Jews in Europe — and Jews and Muslim Arabs in Israel — all the way back to the biblical beginning.

The conflicts examined in the novel from the crucification of Jesus, to the Holocaust, to the first decades of the modern establishment of the Israeli nation-state are familiar to most. But Oz's novel challenges us to look deeper, consider new possibilities, and ultimately question the inevitability of history.

Did all of it have to happen this way? Could there have been different outcomes? Could there still be? What are we willing to risk? What price to pay? On the eve of Israeli elections that seem to boil the essence of Judas into a suffocating, sticky morass — the novel (as fiction often does) helps tell the full truth.

Length: 305 pages

Genre: Fiction | Novel

Published: 2016

What is it about?

Back of the book:

Jerusalem, 1959. Shmuel Ash, a biblical scholar, is adrift in his young life when he find work as a caregiver for a brilliant but cantankerous old man named Gershom Wald. Piece by piece, the old Jerusalem stone house, haunted by tragic history, reveals its secrets.

Why do we love it?

Amos Oz takes us back to the beginning to reexamine the titular character's role in the biblical story of crucifixion — and asks us to consider how things may have been different with a different story.

The way things did turn out we know: Judas' commonly understood role laid the groundwork for a millennia of Jew hatred, which in turn contributed to the need for a Jewish nation-state established after the Holocaust. Which in turn has led to a multi-generational conflict whereby two peoples connected by shared language, culture, and histories of religious persecution have determined to entrench in a bloody, never-ending fight to the death.

What if the founding of the nation of Israel happened differently? Could everyone have peacefully coexisted if that was the priority strategy at founding? Is it a fantasy to dream about, a lost hope, or necessary way to go on working to make the future better than the past?

The novel was complex, heart-breaking, and sometimes even funny! One thing we loved about it was that it asked more questions than it had answers for. Sometimes that can be an exasperating experience for a reader — but in this case we found it to be honest and real.

In the end, we are reminded that nothing about how history happened is inevitable and nothing about the future is certain.

Beyond the Book

Israeli Elections: Stranger Than Fiction

Netanyahu is being indicted. Taking a page from the Trump play book, he's lashing out by making incendiary comments that fuel extremism. The right wing continues to dominate. A gap is widening between American Jews and Israelis.

Oz's novel has never been more relevant.

Read More: Haaretz: Israeli Elections and the Big, Fat Palestinian Elephant in the Room [this is pay-walled, but worth reading, so copy and paste the headline into Google to access]

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Palestinian Chicken

What?! When the chicken is good, it's good!

Watch The Clip

The Bizarre Anti - Jewishness of Jeremy Corbyn

Israel is kind of a piece of work right now, but that doesn't change the fact that strains of anti-Semitism are creeping into mainstream political life (and maybe actually Israel's dysfunction makes this worse?)

Learn More: The New Yorker: Jeremy Corbyn's Anti-Semitism Crisis

Italic Type Mis·cel·la·ny


Adults Need Read Ins Too!

Lets face it – the demands of adult life in 2019 can make it difficult to find time to read. In fact, a recent survey we conducted of self-described avid readers found that 75% of respondents said they felt bad about not reading as much as they would like to.

That's why we propose that companies consider instituting the good ol' fashioned Read In Day to give overwhelmed, distracted adults (aka all of us) carved out space and freedom to read.


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