Judas – Amos Oz

I discovered this author and book on my trip to Israel. Instead of buying souvenir from my travels, i like to collect books to remember the places. It is one of my better finds.

Judas, as the name suggests, is not a religious book, but it does delve into the question of whether Judas was a traitor or the first Christian to truly believe in Jesus as God. If you have strong religious beliefs, then this book is not for you – since it explores religion, Israel and Arab conflict, settlement of Israel state and a nation, and keeping an open mind is the key to truly enjoying this book.

Shmuel, a university student is writing his Master’s thesis on ‘Jewish Views of Judas’, when his girlfriend left him to marry her ex-boy friend, stating that Shmuel was immature and suffering from extreme mood swings between euphoria and melancholy. Shmuel is a loner and with short attention span, especially when he is not the one talking or lecturing. Shmuel spends the day of his girlfriends wedding in emergency ward getting treated for a severe Asthma attack.

Shmuel decides to leave his thesis and Jerusalem and start afresh, when his parents are declared bankrupt and are no longer able to support him and his education. While putting up a notice for sale of his personal effects, he notices another requirement for a young man required as a companion to an elderly, providing both board and a minimal salary. Thus, our protagonist, decides to take up this offer – one who gets bored after 3-4 sentences of hearing someone else talk, takes up a job of listening.

During his stay in the house at Rabbi Elbaz Lane, he comes across Wald and his daughter in law Atalia, who he immediately is fascinated with. During his 5-6 hours of work in the evenings, Wald and Shmuel discuss broad range of topics – including formation of Israel and role of Judas, as a traitor or not. Shmuel stays at this job for three months and discovers the entanglements of the life of occupants, falls intensely in love with Atalia and starts to feel at home. At the end, we find Shmuel standing on a dusty road, wondering where he should go? what he should do?

Though, a simple sounding book, the more interesting parts are the conversations that take place every evening. Very ingeniously parallels are drawn on what a traitor is – someone who led God to crucifixion on the strength of his belief and commits suicide when that faith fails him or someone who considers the formation of Israel by antagonising the Arabs in the region as setting up of a time bomb, which would ultimately lead to destruction? Who is right – Jews who have known no home except Jerusalem since time immemorial or Arabs who were thrown out  and displaced from their own homes to provide space for these persecuted jews, who migrated to Jerusalem from all over the world? Could there have been a more peaceful solution possible, leading to amicable coexistence of the two communities?

“Judaism and Christianity, and Islam too, all drip honeyed words of love and mercy, so long as they do not have access to handcuffs, grilles, dominion, torture chambers and gallows.”

Its a book to savour and to re-read pages / paragraphs, where the characters evolve gradually and stay with you long after you have finished reading. Whenever you will read about Israel conflict elsewhere, some of the lines from this book will come back to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s