Amos Oz, one of the most celebrated Israeli authors of all time and regarded by many as a national treasure, was a cruel bully who abused his younger daughter, Galia Oz, verbally and physically, according to an autobiographical book she has written.
Even the title of the book, Something Disguised as Love, details the profound abuse she says she suffered. Galia, herself an award-winning author known for her children’s books, opens the book — which she must have known would rock Israel’s literary community to its foundations — with the words, “In my childhood, my father beat me, swore and humiliated me. The violence was creative: He dragged me from inside the house and threw me outside. He called me trash. Not just a passing loss of control and not a slap in the face now and then, but a routine of sadistic abuse. My crime was me myself, so the punishment had no end. He had a need to make sure I would break.” The violence continued until his death in 2018, she wrote.
Fania Oz-Salzberger, Amos Oz’ eldest daughter, who is a noted historian and author, tweeted a response on Sunday and said she was speaking for the rest of the family as well: “We, Nily [Oz’s widow], Fania and Daniel [Oz’s son], knew a different father. A warm, friendly, attentive father who loved his family with deep love full of concern, devotion and sacrifice. Most of the accusations Galia throws at him now completely contradict the strong memory stamped into us throughout our entire lives. Galia decided to sever all contact with us seven years ago. The claims she voiced against us then caught us all by surprise. Even though he did not recognize himself in her accusations, father really tried and hoped until his final day to speak with her and understand her, even about the things that seemed to him and to us the opposite of reality. It appears Galia’s pain is real and heartbreaking, but we remember differently. Completely differently.”
Galia insists in the book, which was published by the Kinneret Zmora publishing company, that she was abused in a way that might be associated with the most dysfunctional families: “This book is about me. But I’m not the only one. Houses such as the house I grew up in somehow float in space, far from the reach of social workers, outside the range of influence of revolutions such as #MeToo, without leaving a sign on social media. Terrified and isolated, they encrypt their secrets wisely like crime families. In order to write about it, I have no choice but to overcome the violence and secrecy, the habit of keeping it all inside me and the fear of what people will say. I’m not really overcoming it, of course. But I am writing.” Her father spread slander about her that she feared would discredit anything she said about him, she said in the book.
Oz, who died in 2018, was frequently mentioned as a contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. He published more than a dozen novels, including My Michael, A Perfect Peace and Black Box, as well as collections of short fiction such as The Hill of Evil Counsel, books of nonfiction and essays. His work was translated into over 35 languages.
His acclaimed memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, became an international bestseller and was adapted into a 2016 movie directed by and starring Natalie Portman. At its center is his relationship with his mother, who suffered from depression and committed suicide when he was 12. Some have speculated that the portrait of a strong-willed, epileptic daughter, Netta, in his 1989 novel about a retired, suddenly widowed intelligence agent, To Know a Woman, was based on Galia.
Speaking about his mother’s death, he said, “Without a wound, there is no author.”