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Judas by Amos Oz

Judas (2014)

by Amos Oz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (12)  Italian (5)  Dutch (3)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
The most accessible of all the Amos Oz books I have read. I'll admit to having struggled with one or two of his books before I read, loved and appeared as an extra in the movie of A Tale of Love and Darkness. This was a pleasure. I was transported to Jerusalem in the Winter of 1959 and challenged by the arguments for and against Israel's statehood which are visited here with a lost dissenting voice compared to Judas, the betrayer, the traitor who may just have been the single true believer right up until the moment he lost his faith. Excellent stuff. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
Judas, Amos Oz, author; Jonathan Davis, narrator
I would describe this book as literary. I do not think it will appeal to a broad audience, but those interested in the history of Israel and the relationship of Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot, will find it inspirational. Various theories about their relationship and the relationship between Arab and Jew, and about the creation of the Jewish nation, are philosophically and historically explored with positive and negative views as competing ideas are presented.
The time is near the end of 1959. A young, rather unkempt looking, sensitive, university student, named Shmuel Ash, a Socialist, grows completely disillusioned with his life when his girlfriend, Yardena, suddenly leaves him to marry her ex-boyfriend. His personality, which is difficult to define either positively or negatively, no longer suits her. At the same time as this traumatic break-up occurs, Shmuel’s father suffers a business and financial reversal. He can no longer pay for Shmuel’s education. Rather than go to work to support himself and his studies, he leaves school, gives up his thesis on the Gospel of Judas, disappointing his family, and abandons his friends to wallow in his disappointments. He answers an advertisement to be a part time caretaker for an elderly, disabled man. The pay is a pittance but he needs a place to stay and wants to get away from everyone.
The elderly man, to whom he becomes a companion, Gershom Wald, lives with a woman, Atalia Abravanel. She is the widow of his son, Micha, who was killed in the War for Independence, fought in 1948, right after Israel was born. Wald had been a staunch Zionist. He believed in the Jewish nation. Atalia’s father, however, Shealtiel Abravanel, had not. He was considered a traitor and friend of the Arabs. Abravanel thought everyone should simply live together, all people, and didn’t believe in two separate states, either. He predicted the riots and upheaval to come if Israel became a reality, and he was ostracized by everyone. When Micah went off to fight, Atalia, begged him not to go. Shortly afterward, he was tortured, mutilated and murdered by the Arabs.
Atalia mesmerized Shmuel, even though she remained aloof, only describing his duties to him and keeping her distance. He worked for a few hours a day, from mid-afternoon until early evening. The rest of the time was his to pursue whatever he wished. He was often encouraged to use his time to study or write. Shmuel and the old man engaged in conversation about philosophy, concerning Israel, Jesus and Judas, and also, on occasion, about his life. Slowly the history of their different relationships was revealed as were the different theories about Judas and his role in the death of Christ and its effect on future civilizations. Did Judas betray Jesus, encouraging the crucifixion, or did he truly believe that G-d was Christ’s father, and would save him with unique powers that would lift him from the cross? If Jesus was Jewish, did he found Christianity or did Judas, with his historic reputation of treachery? In many ways, Abravanel and Judas are twinned, as both are characterized as traitors. Abravanel was considered a traitor to Jews and to Israel, and he predicted the chaos to come. Judas was considered the disciple who betrayed Jesus, and perhaps, caused the chaos to come.
While Wald provided Shmuel with somewhat of a father image, as Shmuel also was a stand-in for his son, it is more difficult to explain Atalia. She is somewhat of an enigma. Older than Shmuel, and depicted as the eternal grieving widow, she seems also to either mentor him or torment him as she entices him to her bed. It is difficult to determine her real purpose, and I found that the sex scenes seemed to add little to the narrative. One thing is certain, Shmuel is lonely and lost, and she seems to enrich his life, in some way.
In the book, the reader witnesses both Arab and Jew committing heinous crimes against each other, and although both viewpoints are presented, it seems obvious that the war, that 37 year old Micha gave his life to, was unavoidable. Gershom Wald is acutely aware of the fact that the Arabs wanted to drive the Jews into the sea, and his daughter-in-law’s father is acutely aware of the consequences he predicted becoming a reality. Are either of these viewpoints wrong? As Shmuel talks with the rabbi and his daughter-in-law, they develop and share ideas. They reveal their own characters to each other. Shmuel learns that Atalia is in complete control of Gershom’s care. They are both living in her home. She determined when each companion to Wald would leave, and none stayed very long. They all fell in love with her, and she soon tired of them. Shmuel would also suffer the same fate.
Did Abravanel truly betray the Jewish people with his opposition to the Jewish state. If there was no Jewish state, would Jews and Arabs live side by side? Would there be these constant wars in the Middle East? Was Judas really the man who betrayed Jesus or was Jesus really the G-d that Judas believed him to be? What would have happened to the world if there had been no Judas? Would there be anti-Semitism? Would there be a Christian Religion. Would a Jewish nation have been necessary? Would the world be at peace today, if Judas had been interpreted differently, if he really wasn’t the disciple who betrayed Jesus, but was a man who felt betrayed himself, by his own strong love and belief in Jesus as the son of G-d? If Abravanel’s warnings had been heeded would the world be more peaceful?
Shmuel’s fatal flaw seems to be that he always thinks too long about acting, but never actually does act. By the time he decides to do something, the moment has passed. Will he ever discover his own purpose in life as he is attempting to discover the purpose of Judas and Jesus? The book explores this and more, as Shmuel and Gershom write and speak about their thoughts on Jesus and Judaism and Jesus and Judas and discuss the Arab/Jewish problem in the land of Israel. Each of the characters was haunted by their memories and thoughts. Examining their innermost beliefs, the author is able to philosophize about the Arab/Jewish problems and the Jewish/Christian problems and the possibility of any of those conflicts being resolved.
The book examines relationships and the effect of different loyalties, political beliefs, socialization, and communication, on relationships as they all relate to each other, and how they relate to Israel and the Jews, to Judaism and Jesus. The book is particularly well read by the narrator with authentic accents and the expression of temperament that comes through with the portrayal of each character.
Two men are cast out, Abravanel and Judas, for similar reasons. We are left with the questions: What would the world be like if there had never been a Judas who was defined as a traitor, which ultimately birthed Christianity? What would the world be like if Abravanel had not been called a traitor and the Jewish nation had not been established? ( )
  thewanderingjew | Jan 3, 2019 |
Schmuel Ash is a grad student at Hebrew University, interested in creating his thesis on 'The Jewish View of Jesus'. But after two thousand years, it is hard to produce new thought on this. He believes he has struck on one: Judas, instead of being the reviled traitor, is the kernel of the story. Judas is Jesus's first true believer, but frustrated with how Jesus is not cooperating, Judas pushes events forward.

Discouraged by his advisor's unenthusiastic reception and having money problems, Schmuel drops out of school and becomes the caretaker to a mysterious old man, whose son was killed in fighting for the Israeli state. His current caretaker is his son's widow. Her father fought for a more moderate Israeli nation, with compensation for the displaced Palestinians.

So we have two traitors, Judas and the widow's father; and two heroes – Jesus and Israeli leader Ben-Gurion. But who is traitor and who is hero? Who is trying to do the right thing and how will history remember them?

Tough read for me, because while I am familiar with the nuances of the story of Jesus and can see the skews, I am not familiar with the nuances of Israeli politics at the time it was becoming a nation. Is Ben-Gurion's story also a bit skewed? I just don't have the experience to know, although I spent a bit of time researching his positions since I read this as part of a literature seminar.

Still, it's an interesting look at the complexities of the Israeli/Palestinian situation and the mistakes that may have been made leading to today's conflict.

And Oz's writing is fine and thought provoking.
  streamsong | Apr 22, 2018 |
A brilliant political polemic, cultural allegory, and probing of the uses and limits of power. The plot is a coming of age tale set in Jerusalem in 1959. The characters are clearly vehicles for the author to express his beliefs about a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel. The focus is on the role of Judas in the origination of Christianity. Do not read this book unless all I have said so far fascinates you. It is dense, philosophical, and somewhat plodding, yet is marvelously thought provoking. I liked it very much! ( )
  hemlokgang | Feb 24, 2018 |
Amos Oz, winner of the International Literature Prize, raises fundamental questions concerning Israeli politics, religion, ethics and history in this new novel. The story takes place in a still divided Jerusalem in 1959. It is there that Shmuel Ash, a scholar working on “the Jewish view of Jesus”, is set adrift when his parents can no longer support his studies. Shmuel takes a job as a companion to an old, cantankerous but brilliant retired schoolteacher who is suffering from a degenerative disease. His primary caregiver happens to be his son’s widow. The favorite topic of debate among the three of them is the formation of the state of Israel without first adequately addressing Arab concerns, a position for which they could be deemed traitors. This also brings them to the topic Shmuel had been studying, the traitor Judas Iscariot. It is a love story and coming of age novel that also offers a surprising perspective on the state of Israel and the biblical tale from which it draws its title.
Kirkus Review writes “ … a doleful view of the possibilities of peace, love, and understanding whether among nations or within households.”
  HandelmanLibraryTINR | Sep 27, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Judas is thematisch een overvol boek. Misschien heeft dat besef Oz ertoe gebracht rustig te beginnen en de lezer niet al meteen voor hoogst complexe situaties te plaatsen. Er zijn minstens drie, uiteindelijk onderling verbonden thema’s. (...)
Alleen al om deze, uiteindelijk toch nog geloofwaardig met de andere thema’s verbonden fragmenten, verdient Judas de hoogste lof. Het is een uiterst wijs maar ook een uiterst tragisch boek. Oz maakt vooral duidelijk dat de tegenstellingen zo diep verankerd en zo pijnlijk zijn dat er, in de woorden van Wald, ‘geen remedie voor de wereld is.’
En zo blijft de lezer van deze gelaagde en toch heldere roman achter met een paar belangwekkende vragen: Is verraad wel altijd wat het lijkt? En hoe was de geschiedenis verlopen als het net even anders was gegaan? Als Judas Jezus niet had overgehaald naar Jeruzalem te gaan? Als de eerste premier van Israël, David Ben Goerion, zich had laten overtuigen door iemand als Sjealtiël Abarbanel? Er zijn minder interessante kwesties om je het hoofd over te breken.
added by sneuper | editde Volkskrant, Anet Bleich (Dec 19, 2015)

» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Oz, Amosprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, JonathanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
García Lozano, RaquelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Loewenthal, ElenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pach, HildeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pressler, MirjamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Winner of the International Literature Prize, the new novel by Amos Oz is his first full-length work since the best-selling A Tale of Love and Darkness. Jerusalem, 1959. Shmuel Ash, a biblical scholar, is adrift in his young life when he finds work as a caregiver for a brilliant but cantankerous old man named Gershom Wald. There is, however, a third, mysterious presence in his new home. Atalia Abarbanel, the daughter of a deceased Zionist leader, a beautiful woman in her forties, entrances young Shmuel even as she keeps him at a distance. Piece by piece, the old Jerusalem stone house, haunted by tragic history and now home to the three misfits and their intricate relationship, reveals its secrets. At once an exquisite love story and coming-of-age novel, an allegory for the state of Israel and for the biblical tale from which it draws its title, Judas is Amos Oz's most powerful novel in decades"--… (more)

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