Haaretz brings the sad news of the death of Amos Elon, one of the sharpest minds ever to have arisen from the Yishuv. Among his claims to fame were a groundbreaking biography of Theodor Herzl and a seminal work of Zionist history, The Israelis: Fathers and Sons. Elon was one of Haaretz’s most brilliant reporters and served admirably as its Washington, D.C. correspondent. In fact, the current and recent crop of Haaretz U.S. correspondents suffers depressingly by comparison.
Elon was an eloquent and savage critic of the Occupation. His Haaretz obituary reveals the man’s despair at the impasse within Israel over its political future:
…In the 90s [Elon] eventually left the country permanently, settling in a village in Tuscany.
“Nothing has changed here [in Israel] for the past 40 years,” he told Ari Shavit in an interview five years ago, expressing his frustration with the country. “The solutions were known already back then. I realized I was saying the same things again and again. I began to bore myself.”
This is yet another example of the despair to which Israel’s best and brightest are driven by the mess the country finds itself in. This is why so many tens of thousands emigrate. When you lose the Elons, then as a nation you’re losing your heart, your soul. And the quality of citizen you leave behind becomes that much closer to a fanatical settler. That is not to say that Israelis are all fanatics. But when the Elons desert the ship, the quality of what remains is that much diminished.
Bernard Avishai has published a gorgeous appreciation of Elon, who was his friend, in the New Yorker. You can do no better if you wish to see Elon clearly than to read Avishai’s elegant and soulful words.