Amos Oz's Family 'Remembers Differently' Abuse Accusations by Late Author's Daughter

Galia Oz's claims have 'a kernel of truth,' her brother says, while the renowned writer's widow says her children weren’t physically harmed

Gili Izikovich
Gili Izikovich
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Amos Oz at his home in Tel Aviv, six years ago.
Amos Oz at his home in Tel Aviv, six years ago.Credit: AP Photo/Dan Balilty
Gili Izikovich
Gili Izikovich

Late author Amos Oz's immediate family said on Sunday they "remember differently" accusations by his estranged daughter Galia that he violently abused her throughout her life.

Meanwhile, few people in the literary world commented on the claim about Oz, who was perennially mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature until his death in 2018 and seen as a symbol of Israel’s peace camp.

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In Galia Oz’s autobiography, published in Hebrew on Sunday, she wrote: “In my childhood, my father beat me, swore and humiliated me ... Not a passing loss of control and not a slap in the face here or there, but a routine of sadistic abuse ... He had a need to make sure I would break.”

Fania Oz-Sulzberger, the author’s eldest daughter, wrote on Twitter that the other members of the family “knew a different father. A warm, friendly, attentive father who loved his family with profound love full of concern, devotion and sacrifice. Most of the accusations Galia throws at him now completely contradict the fierce memory stamped into us throughout our entire lives.

“Galia decided to sever all contact with us seven years ago,” she continued. “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.”

Later on Sunday, Amos’ widow Nili was interviewed by Kan Bet public radio. Interviewer Esty Perez opened by saying, “When your daughter publishes such a thing, if it isn’t true, it hurts, and if it is true, it’s a Pandora’s box.” Nili replied that she is still mourning her husband, then asked Perez, “When you have something in your family, do you call all the media and tell everyone?”

“I care about my children above all else,” Perez replied. Nili responded, “So do I. I can assure you that my whole life, I’ve taken care of them, and that nobody touched them in a harmful way.”

“Amos Oz didn’t touch them in a harmful way, didn’t abuse, didn’t humiliate, didn’t hit?” Perez pressed her. Nili responded, “I don’t intend to say anything on this issue, even though I know everything that happened and this story is a problem – not ours, but that of the person who wrote it. I don’t intend to comment.”

Amos’ son Daniel addressed the issue at length on Facebook. His father, he wrote, “wasn’t an angel, just a human being. But he was the best man I ever had the privilege of knowing.”

He added that he doesn’t want to smear his sister, but that the rest of the family has a completely different recollection of Amos Oz.

“In contrast to us, my middle sister Galia remembers that she experienced tough parenting and abuse from our father,” he wrote. “I’m certain – that is, I know – there’s a kernel of truth in her statements. Don’t erase her. But don’t erase us, either.

“This is the situation as I myself know it, something that happened,” he continued. “After many years of seemingly good family relations – not devoid of tensions, but nevertheless close, full of family joys – Galia remembered what she then recalled as neglect. Fania and I saw our father making great efforts, digging deep to the point of hurting himself to understand his guilt, recognize it, change, try to atone and reconcile. If Fania and I experienced injustices at his hands in our childhood (which, as is implicit in Galia’s statements, admittedly weren’t painful to the same degree), we were never troubled by a need to make them public and cause him to stew in them and torture himself over them like that. It’s painful to see this.

“I know traumatic experiences are buried beneath mounds of repression and can stay buried for many years,” he wrote. “But what was difficult and strange for me – and I don’t say this judgmentally, but as an honest description of my personal viewpoint – is that the more our father tried to listen, internalize, reconcile and fix himself, the harsher and more incriminating Galia’s memories became.There’s an enigma in my life. I don’t really know what slowly killed my father over his last six or seven years – cancer, or the daily nightmares and sleep disruptions. Cancer, or the fact that my mother mourned repeatedly, with bitter tears, that ‘her daughter had died.’

“What happened to my parents I saw with my own eyes,” he went on. “What happened to Galia during this time, after she severed all connection with us, I don’t know, because she didn’t allow me to learn. I’m convinced it was very difficult, very painful, for her as well. Galia is many things, but she’s not deceptive, not a liar and not a manipulator. Please don’t say otherwise. Please also don’t accuse my mother and my sister Fania of some ridiculous conspiracy.

“My father is dead, and he can’t stand in the dock and plead his innocence, nor can he defend those he loved,” wrote his son. “We are only witnesses – regarding the things that our mother remembers differently than Galia, the things that Fania remembers differently from Galia, the things that I remember differently from Galia. Therefore, these are our memories, from our personal point of view, which is limited (as is everyone’s). And I’ll keep my explanation of the contradiction between our stories to myself.”

Most of the few literary figures who made comments on the controversy focused on Amos Oz’s literary legacy.

One of the few exceptions was author Matan Hermoni. “Some things are unforgivable, and there’s no statute of limitations on them,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “We need to rewrite the history of Hebrew literature, and everyone engaged in literature who is speaking out right now on other public issues is trying to divert his gaze from the terrible drama now taking place.”

Children’s author Yehuda Atlas, who is friends with Galia Oz, also voiced support for her. “I knew about these stories,” he said in an interview with Army Radio. “It’s hard for us leftists, this issue. Amos Oz was our golden prince. But apparently, the moon also has a dark side.”

As for Oz’s beloved works of literature, Atlas said, “apparently, we have to distinguish between the person and his work.”

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