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The Book Club's Choice of December – "Judas" by Amos Oz.

"Judas" is a novel of ideas, a discourse on betrayal and its essence, a debate about the dark side of Jewish-Christian relations and a reflection on modern Israeli history.

"Judas" by Amos Oz

Amos Oz is an Israeli modern classicist, university professor, and journalist. His works have been translated into 42 languages, including Arabic. He has been nominated three times for the Nobel Prize.

In the novel "Judah" the author organically weaves into the chamber story of the relationship between three completely dissimilar people in the Jerusalem winter of 1959.

Amos Oz

Good-natured and impulsive student Shmuel Ash is disillusioned with his life - his fiancée has left him for someone else, his academic endeavours are failing, his father has gone bankrupt and can no longer pay for his university studies. On a notice board, Shmuel sees a strange ad for an uncomplicated job for a humanities student.

Gershom Vald, an elderly intellectual, is looking for someone with whom he can have conversations and arguments in exchange for a desk, shelter and a modest allowance.

Thus Shmuel becomes the occupant of an old house in one of Jerusalem's ancient neighbourhoods.

In addition to Gershom Vald, the house is inhabited by the mysterious beauty Atalia, daughter of the Zionist Shaltiel Abrabanel, who attracts and frightens Shmuel with her cold detachment.

And while Shmuel Ash talks to the old man for hours, becoming increasingly fascinated by the theme of betrayal, which somehow ends their philosophical arguments, Amos Oz writes for the reader a melodious Jerusalem nocturne, and in the cold air of a clear winter night, the lonely violin of love sounds shrilly.


  • The fundamentalist lives with an exclamation mark. I prefer to live with a question mark.

  • Fanaticism is the plague of the twenty-first century. Just as the previous century was ravaged by world reformers and redeemers, ideological movements with magical formulas, this century is dominated by different types of fanatics.

  • We have completely forgotten that there is a place for charity in the world besides principles and ideals.

  • Without Judas, there might not have been a Crucifixion, and without the Crucifixion, there might not have been Christianity.

  • German officers who attempted to assassinate Hitler were executed as traitors. There are plenty of courageous people in the history of mankind who were ahead of their time and were therefore known as traitors or cranks.

  • The truth is that no power in the world can turn a hater into a lover. You can turn a hater into an enslaved person, but not into a loving person. With all the power in the world you cannot turn a bigoted person into a tolerant person. And with all the power in the world, you cannot turn a man who wants revenge into a friend.

  • Judaism, Christianity, Islam - all of them are not stingy in their mellifluous speeches, full of love, benevolence and mercy, only as long as they do not have handcuffs, bars, power, torture cellars and scaffolds in their hands. All these beliefs, including those that originated in recent generations and continue to enchant many hearts to this day, all appeared to save us, but very soon began to shed our blood.

  • Man, as Kant once said, is by nature like a crooked, rough log. And we cannot try to cut it without drowning in blood.

Discussion Questions.

1. What is this book about for you?

2. Amos Oz has a mixed attitude in Israel itself. Do you think he associates himself with Judah? And is this book not written as an excuse?

3. Which quotes from the book have you retained, emphasised? Which ones do you agree with and which ones do you disagree with?

4. Why do you think the author placed a failed student writing a thesis on Judah's role in Judaism in a house where people with opposing viewpoints about Israel lived, befriended, and died?

5. Which of the characters in Judah would you yourself like to debate with about the nature of things? Who would be a more desirable interlocutor for you: Gershom Wald or Shaltiel Abrabanel?

6. What do you think of these words, "For without Judas, there might not have been a Crucifixion, and without the Crucifixion, there might not have been Christianity"?

7. Athaliah is a complex and mysterious character, she attracts and repels at the same time. How do you feel about her: do you sympathise, admire, condemn?

8. How appropriate do you think this book would be now, during Israel's war with Hamas?


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