Devorah Omer 370.
(photo credit: wzohagshama.wix.com)
BELOVED for more than half a century by tens of thousands of Israeli children,
Israel Prize winner Devorah Omer, who wiped the dust from the history of the
state and transformed it into close to 90 exciting children’s stories, was laid
to rest on Sunday in the moshav cemetery in her home town of Kfar
In addition to writing books for children and young people, Omner,
a teacher by training, wrote radio scripts, plays and novels for adults. She was
amazingly prolific, and her books about Israel’s pioneers, the soldiers in the
fledgling army, the ongoing history of the state and the wars in which Israel
was caught up fired the imaginations of her young readers.
Like so many
of Israel’s prominent writers, Omer’s writing career began on the children’s
pages of a newspaper.
In her case, it was in the now-defunct B’Maaleh,
followed by Davar.
The columns she wrote under the heading of “Tamar’s
Pages” were subsequently published as an anthology of short stories which became
an instant best seller.
Following announcements last Friday in the print
and electronic media that Omer had passed away at age 80 after a long and
painful illness, several radio anchors throughout the day disrupted their
regular programs to reminisce about how as children they had taken her books to
bed, and when their parents had ordered lights out, had snuck a flashlight
beneath the covers so that they could snuggle under with the book and continue
reading. Israel Radio’s Liat Regev noted that even in this digital age, her own
children were no less fascinated than she had been at their ages to read the
tales woven by Omer.
Omer, who was born in 1932 on Kibbutz Maoz Haim, had
writing in her genes. She came from a literary family.
Her father, Moshe
Mosenzon, was a newspaper editor and journalist. Her uncle, Yigal Mosenzon,
authored the famous Hasamba junior suspense series about a group of youngsters
who formed a secret society during the British Mandate period, upholding the
virtues of loyalty and camaraderie while tracking down criminals and stamping
out evil. His many other writings included Kasablan, on which the marvelous film
starring Yehoram Gaon was based.
Devorah Omer was also a beautiful and
articulate woman. Some of the radio anchors recalled what a joy it was to
interview her. She could talk just as easily about her subject matter as write
about it. Among her many subjects were Theodor Herzl; David Ben-Gurion, the
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; Zvia Lubetkin; Yitzhak Rabin, the beginnings of the
Israel Air Force – all conveyed in the most informal, yet memorable manner,
through a story book.
Although she began writing a diary at age seven,
she never really thought about being a professional writer.
had grown up on a kibbutz, she imagined that she would spend most of her life
working in a kibbutz factory plant, or if she was lucky, as a tractor driver.
But her creativity came to the fore and determined her fate. Many of the books
she wrote have become Israeli classics, and several have been translated into
English, including Operation Teheran: The Rescue of Jewish Children from the
Nazis, which was published in English in 1991.
Among the many awards she
received were the Yatziv Prize (1959); the Lamdan Prize, twice, (1967, 1981);
the Ministry of Education Prize (1973); the Prime Minister’s Prize (1979); an
Andersen International Honor Citation; the Ze’ev Prize, twice, (1981,1991); the
Janusz Korczak Medal; the Hadassah Prize (2002); the Ministry of Education
Lifetime Achievement Award (2005); the Israel Prize, for her contribution to
Israeli literature (2006); and the ACUM Lifetime Achievement Award as recently
as last year.
Omer is survived by her husband Shmuel, a former director
of Habimah Theater, three children and several grandchildren.
television interview in the immediate aftermath of her death, Shmuel Omer said
that he had never come home to find her missing. He was at a loss to know how he
would cope without her being there.