Amos Oz Delivers the Monash Israel Oration
“Countries and nations are born out of geography, they are born out of history, out of politics, and out of demography.” So began Amos Oz, Israel’s most internationally-recognised novelist, when he delivered the Monash Israel Oration at the Melbourne Town Hall late last month.
“Israel,” he continued, “was born out of a dream, and everything - everything at all that is born out of a dream - is destined to feel like a slight disappointment. The only way to keep a dream perfect and rosy and intact and unspoilt is never to try to live it out. A fulfilled dream is a disappointing dream. This is true of writing a novel, this is true of building a house, this is true of living out a sexual fantasy, and this is true of building a nation. Israel has a certain air of disappointment about it, but this is not in the nature of Israel. It is in the nature of dreams.”
But the paradox in which Israel finds itself is more complicated still, says Oz, because Israel was born not of a single dream but “out of an entire spectrum of dreams - a federation of master plans and blueprints and visions. And many of those initial dreams of the founding fathers and mothers of Israel were contradictory and mutually exclusive.”
The novelist used his oration to define doubt, argument, compromise and secularism as virtues - and more pointedly as hallmarks of Jewish, and Israeli, culture.