Israeli children’s author Dvora Omer laid to rest

Like so many of Israel’s prominent writers, Omer’s writing career began on the children’s pages of a newspaper.

Devorah Omer 370 (photo credit:
Devorah Omer 370
(photo credit:
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 Maas.
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.
Because she 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.
In a 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.