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Home / Books / Citizen's political concerns

Citizen's political concerns

Israel's politics have forced Batya Gur to comment on politics, though she is better known for her novels.

books Updated: May 04, 2004 17:23 IST
Roshen Dalal
Roshen Dalal
PTI
Hindustantimes

The troubled conditions in Israel have forced Batya Gur, Israeli writer and journalist, to comment on politics, though she is better known for her mystery novels.

At a conference in Brussels to celebrate International Women's Day she said, "The suicide bombers sadden me and are destroying my heart". But, she added, it was the Israeli leaders who were responsible for this tragic situation.

A frequent writer for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Gur recounted in an recent  article how she was arrested when she asked three young policewomen why they were harrassing a Palestinian, old enough to be their grandfather.

She wrote, "I found myself saying that I refuse to feel like a German walking past an abused Jew in Nazi Germany and turn away indifferently or fearfully. 'You're calling us Nazis!' shrieked the soldiers, and within a minute the word became a precious possession on their lips. They rejoiced in their justice and I could already imagine all the self-righteous people gloating over the use of this word."

Batya Gur, currently living in Jerusalem, is not a political figure, just an ordinary citizen trying to live her own life. She taught literature for several years before writing her first novel, in which she created the sensitive and intelligent detective Michael Ohayon. Though she writes fiction, her writing reflects the social, economic and political realities of Israel. 

In Literary Murder, the background is the academic setting of Hebrew University. Saturday Morning Murder takes a look at the world of psychoanalysis. Murder on a Kibbutz, includes an interesting sociological and historical analysis of the changes and development of the institution of the Kibbutz.

A Kibbutz member recollects, "It's difficult to transmit what the first contact with the land was like. The hardship, the dryness, the water, the hunger. Especially the hunger, and the hard work. Twelve hours at a stretch sometimes, clearing and ploughing and gradually building." But as the years passed the Kibbutz movement and its communal way of life was questioned, and individual freedom became more important.

The next book, Murder Duet is about a murder in a musical family, and rich in detail on music and the life of musicians. Another in the Michael Ohayon series, Bethlehem Road Murder is to be released later this year. Gur's other books include I didn't Imagine It Would Be This Way and Stone for Stone. Writing in Hebrew, her books have been translated into several languages, while Saturday Morning Murder has been televised.

The history of Israel and Palestine in some ways reminds us of India and Pakistan, and causes one to reflect on problems that seem created and fanned by political decisions. Batya Gur's political views may be questioned, but what she writes has relevance, as both in her books and her articles she looks beyond man-made conflicts, at the common humanity of all people.

Regarding her support of the old Palestinian, she says, "I know very well that such an act by a woman like me, someone who avoids any political activity or any consistent struggle for human rights, is actually a sentimental act. Such a trivial act of protest is a bit like sweeping the path to my own private garden.". Yet it is perhaps such trivial and seemingly irrelevant acts, that could one day bring about positive change.