A well-deserved party

Literary Days in Arad marks a momentous occasion for a momentous man - Amos Oz's 70th year.

amos oz ap 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
amos oz ap 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
When it comes to Israeli writers, it seems there is none more Israeli than Amos Oz. With his forelocks and blue eyes, this quintessential sabra moved alone to a kibbutz at the age of 15 and now calls home the scorching hot, yet very beautiful desert city of Arad. In honor of his 70th birthday a series of cultural events has been planned, aptly titled Literary Days in Arad. During the three-day celebration, renowned cultural figures will appear and perform in numerous literary, musical and art events. "It is a great honor for the city of Arad to have Oz as one of its residents. Therefore, it was obvious that Oz's 70th birthday would be a municipal event. Of course, we are also happy for people to come and explore the beauty of Arad, the city that's been Oz's literary muse since he moved here," says Yael Nahari, artistic director of the event. Regarding his love for Arad, Oz has said, "I love the desert. I love waking up and stepping out into it. Furthermore, Arad is a quiet place. I have five or six friends. I don't need more. When I visited New York, I knew I was missing at least 200 interesting events every night. When I'm in Tel Aviv, I know I'm missing 20. In Arad, I only miss two." Mr. Shimon Peres, president of Israel and a friend of Oz will be present the opening night. Other participants will include poet and journalist Haim Gouri, author and literary researcher Prof. Nurit Gertz, Prof. Fania Oz-Salzberger and Oz himself. Actress Evgenia Dodina will read excerpts from Oz's novels and Liora Rivlin and Shaul Besser will perform the musical show The Same Sea, based on Oz's novel of the same name. The evening will be accompanied by simultaneous translation into English. Oz is quite a modest man and does not like to give interviews and/or talk about himself. He is happy, however, to discuss literature, which may explain his agreement to participate in many of the panels discussing his work, including a meeting with high school students. Other panel participants include: Ronit Weiss Berkowitz (Oz's literary editor), Prof. Nissim Calderon, Prof. Dan Laor, author Eshkol Nevo, Victor Radutzky (who translates Oz's books into Russian), Gadi Taub, Prof. Yoram Yovell, Shiri Lev-Ari, Prof. Nili Cohen, Prof. Yigal Schwartz, Bilha Ben-Eliyahu and author Boris Zaidman. Besides his career as a writer whose books have touched the souls of thousands, Oz is a political activist. He was even given a symbolic spot (#115) on Meretz's Knesset list in the recent elections. "Every time I write a story, people try to find in it an allegory for Israeli society," he has said. Nahari emphasizes that, "It was important for us to show Oz's political side in addition to his personal writing. It took a lot of creative thinking to come up with events that mix both aspects of the man. One such event is, In the Land of Israel 2009, a tour of Israel today following the reissuing of the book Here and There in Israel 1982." Other events include a photography exhibition at the Arad Museum by Arad-based artists inspired by the creations of Amos Oz titled Cross-Reference, community singing, a literary café and a closing concert with Shalom Hanoch and Moshe Levi at Kiryat Ha'omanim. Literary Days in Arad takes place from May 7-9 in several venues around Arad. Tickets for all events are NIS 30-40 except for the Shalom Hanoch concert, which is NIS 80-100. For more information call (08) 623-6041, (077) 332-2004 or visit arad.muni.il/431.html