Peace on earth. It’s what I wish for as each New Year comes around. Yet, as wars continue across the world, we seem further and further from peace. There are wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen, to name a few. Russia just seized three Ukrainian Naval Vessels and their crews. Children in Yemen are literally starving to death due to the Yemeni war. They can get medicine, but not food. The Kurds in Syria asked the Syrian government to step in to help fend off a Turkish attack as the US pulls out. Putin has announced that Russia has a new weapon of war that no one can stop.
Amos Oz, renowned Israel author, died yesterday. He spent his life advocating for peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting a two-state solution. He wrote over 40 books, including “Black Box”, “In the Land of Israel”, and “A Tale of Love and Darkness”. In an interview with Jeffery Brown on the PBS NewsHour in 2016 he stated that literature is about “what we do to one another. It’s the one and only subject of literature, if you really have to squeeze it in a nutshell.” When Brown asked “What is the job or role of a writer in a country like Israel?” Oz replied, “I resent the very term role of writers or role of literature. I’m sorry. I think the right term should be the gift of literature, not the role of literature.”
I believe that. Literature is a gift. Literature offers the opportunity to learn and grow, to see things differently, to understand diverse cultures, diverse parts of the human heart, the rich and broken soul of the world. Literature can transport us to a place where peace is possible, and people rise up triumphant from battles, wounds rich in meaning. Literature can offer a bridge across the great divide of differences and indifferences. Literature is a gift, a place of peace and war, a place where the heart rests or wakes up and rises above the hatred, cruelty, manipulations, and divisions. Literature is about “what we do to one another”.
Amos Oz wrote over 40 books, gifts that will live on and continue his advocacy for peace for years to come. His literature will continue to make us, as he said in the 2016 PBS interview, “look one more time at some things which we have seen a million times, and we see them afresh. Or, sometimes, it makes us reconsider things that we were sure we knew.”
Amos Oz died at the age of 79 and never saw peace between Israel and Palestine, or a two-state solution. May he rest in peace now. As for peace on earth, we have a long way to go. Literature won’t stop an unstoppable weapon of war or feed the children of Yemen. And it is easy to feel helpless in a world overwhelmed by conflict and need. Perhaps the gift of literature can help us rethink “what we do to one another”. It might help us, at least in part, find the ways to peace on earth.