This compelling visual and written experience tells the true story of the many years of upheaval in Israel and the world as seen through the eyes of a mother and artist. It's a highly personal and moving account which is presented in a stunning full color, hardcover coffee table album format.
The author writes that , 'This book is my prayer... I hope to unlock the hearts of others and, in some way, effect change and open a new and better chapter for the Jewish people and for all of mankind.'
Rabbi Dr. Sholom Gold of Jerusalem wrote the foreword for the book and believes that, 'Reading this book is guaranteed to lead to blessed clarity of vision, the desperate need of our time...'
Ellen Horowitz has compiled what may prove to be the quintessential Israeli citizen's book to come out of the Oslo years. When she calls it 'A Mother's Journal', however, she does not give enough credit to the 280 page historical commentary, in a beautiful coffee-book format that belies the content, which she has created. It is richly illustrated with her own paintings - she is a gifted artist - and with photographs from a wide variety of public and private sources.
Far from being just a heart-rending journal of a mother distressed at the terror around her, 'The Oslo Years' is a historical and political document that follows the Oslo process, its aftermath and the current intifada. It begins in 1993 and the last entry is December 20, 2004, but just as Horowitz's early chapters ring with biting and bitter prophecy, there is little doubt about what she anticipates for the future.
In 1993 she joined demonstrations. In 1994 she began publishing her critique of the Oslo process.
'Today, I'm true to myself, my people and my land…I can't stop what Oslo started, but I can protest in order to raise the consciousness of the Israeli public and the world…' In 1995 - years before the full deception of Arafat was acknowledged - she wrote, 'We are not putting the Palestinians in control of their own lives. We are putting Arafat in charge of their lives. In an attempt to quickly wash our hands of an intractable problem, we are creating a welfare state run by a tyrant. The anger and despair that will result from such a combination will most certainly blow up in our face.'
Horowitz reminds us that, the horror of the last five years notwithstanding, terror escalated in the mid ‘90's, after the signing of the Oslo agreement. In November, 1995, after Rabin's assassination, she wrote, 'We were overwhelmed by the pain of the terror. The government sent no representatives to mourn with us; we felt abandoned and afraid. We were ‘victims of the peace,' and there was no stopping the process…Did we incite? Possibly…But…in a country where a government first ignores and then demonizes a significant segment of its people, the unspeakable can happen.'
Horowitz's past and current life is woven into the pages of 'The Oslo Years' with poignancy and self-deprecating humor. Thus, we learn that before she became a Torah-observant Jew, she studied art and design at Rochester Institute of Technology, worked as a cocktail waitress in San Francisco, for a toxicology lab, the Bank of America, for the Red Cross, and for the Boston Ski and Sports Club, to name a few. Horowitz was born in Cleveland to a community-minded but non-Orthodox family, with a businessman father and a mother who was a singer.
In August, 2001 Horowitz left her comfortable penthouse apartment in the religious Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem and, with her six children and her husband, Ilan, who is an acupuncturist and author, went north to the Golan Heights, where they settled in Moshav Nov. For the next four years she secluded herself and churned out column after column, lamenting and lambasting the Oslo process and the deaths and destruction it brought in its wake.
Horowitz has a strong personal identification with the biblical mother Rachel - who she also portrays in a chilling painting facing a chapter entitled 'The Infinite Scream'.
She employs metaphor and humor. In a 2002 column, 'Like Sheep to Slaughter', Horowitz writes, 'I live in a moshav on the Golan Heights and I get to observe sheep a lot. Yeah, they're a cute bunch…but they're not too smart. In fact, they let a bunch of dogs run their lives…The dogs aren't too smart either. …when a wolf shows up, most breeds of dogs can't recognize the difference between themselves and the wolf. Well, you can figure out the rest of the story.'
In a column in April, 2003, 'Beware of the Suits', Horowitz writes, 'Abu Mazen cuts an impressive figure. It appears that he showers, shaves and wears expensive suits…But underneath it all is a bloodstained keffiyah.'
Horowitz lambastes the Palestinian exploitation of children. 'We have seen the enemy…and he's in the fourth grade…There are no innocents, and subsequently no virgins…The young generation has been raped and indoctrinated by their parents, clerics, educators, political leaders and society at large, in an orgy of self-induced violence and rage. It is a society that simultaneously thrives on and consumes itself with hatred.'
Horowitz takes the worldwide Jewish community to task about their indifference to the plight of Pollard, highlights conflicts of national versus personal interests, especially in the case of Shimon Peres.
Time will tell if that will be one more assessment to add to the many regarding which, today, she can say, 'I told you so.'
But there are also moments of a mother's poignancy. 'It's 5 a.m. Israel time and I watch as my eldest son gulps down a quick breakfast. He's been invited to ‘try-out' for the paratroopers. Although he's inherited his father's scoliosis and my father's color blindness, he's insistent…I think about how grateful I am to have the privilege of both raising this son and watching the sun rise in Eretz Yisrael.'
Toby Klein Greenwald The Jewish Ledger Wednesday, August 24, 2005
The 1993 Oslo Accord between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, symbolized by the handshake of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn, clearly marks a turning point in the history of the State of Israel and of the Jewish people. Many in Israel, certainly those on the Left, believed that the long-awaited peace had arrived and a 'New Middle East' would be born. Others, largely identified with the Right, held opposite views.
According to activist, artist and syndicated columnist Ellen W. Horowitz, an immigrant from the United States who lived in Jerusalem and later settled in the Golan Heights, 'for traditional Zionists, our world was turned upside down,' and the handshake was a 'trauma.' Horowitz relates the effect of that 'trauma' and her and others' reactions in The Oslo Years , an anthology of her newspaper and Internet columns, from The Jerusalem Post, Israel National News, other journals and her own website; photographs of her original artwork; and a large selection of press photographs, spanning over a decade. These are interspersed with passages from the Bible, the Jewish prayer book, Rabbinic literature and the occasional photograph of newspaper headlines or automobile stickers. The collection takes the form of an album, reminiscent of those commemoratives of the founding of a kibbutz or an educational institution or even of those which appeared in Israel after the Six Day War of June 1967. Horowitz' work, however, is far superior technically, artistically and aesthetically than those creations. And she is extremely articulate.
Works on the Oslo peace process and its political, military and social effects have been written by those involved in the negotiations, such as, the American diplomat Dennis Ross (The Missing Peace, New York, 2004) or, take the form of academic-journalistic studies, such as David Makovsky, Making Peace with the PLO (Washington, D.C., 1996). Scholarly critiques of the Oslo process include Kenneth Levin, The Oslo Syndrome (Hanover,N.H., 2005) and Joel Fishman-Ephraim Karsh, La Guerre d'Oslo (Paris, 2005). On the Right, the comprehensive 422 page volume edited by the graphic artist Jonah Pressburger, Ruach Acheret, Hebrew, 'Another Spirit') (Beit El, 2004) includes an introduction, comments by participants in demonstrations, excerpts of speeches by political figures, columns by prominent journalists, protest poetry, cartoons, and press photographs. It covers the period from the election of Rabin's Labor Party in 1992 until 2004. Its purpose is to present the fact that not all of the Israeli public supported Oslo and that a broad-based, patriotic, massive popular movement questioned its very legality and continuously protested against the ongoing terrorist attacks and the actual and proposed concessions to the Palestinians. As such it is such an enormous and composite work, it leaves a different impression on the reader than Horowitz's book. While the collection by journalist Judy Lash Balint (Jerusalem Diaries in Tense Times, Hewlett, N.Y., 2001) contains her thoughtful and/or witty columns on aspects of the same period, it focuses on Jerusalem and deals with cultural and religious events as well. Balint often emerges as more of a keen observer, although she occasionally is a participant as well. Mrs. Horowitz's anthology, however, is sui generis, as it is compiled, arranged and written by one person, who selected and edited the photographs and even published the work at her own expense. The Oslo Years, therefore, is an historical source which one would classify as an 'ego document', namely, a statement made by an individual about him or herself as affected by historical-political events of the time. We generally associate this genre of historical source with the memoirs of Holocaust survivors, political figures, or founders of institutions; hence, its importance. To our knowledge, there is no comparable volume with a grass-roots Leftist perspective on the events of the decade following the signing of the Oslo Accords.
The book is divided into three parts: 1993-1996 (from the signing of on the White House lawn to the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister in May 1996); 1996-2000 (the outbreak of the Second Armed Uprising in September 2000 after the failure of the Camp David talks during the tenure of Prime Minister Ehud Barak); and 2000-2004 (the death of Yasser Arafat). The columns, written from 1993 to 2004, appear in chronological order; the photographs do not. They serve the purpose of illustrating what is written in the columns. Here, she displays great skill in matching the images with the subjects of her columns. For Ellen Horowitz, the political and the personal are intertwined. Therefore, a Palestinian terrorist attack on a city bus, a drive-by shooting near a Jewish community in northern Gaza or another meeting between Israeli, Palestinian and American negotiators become part of her own life, like the births of her children, her family's move to the Golan Heights, and her
participation in protests and demonstrations against the Rabin, Peres, Barak and Sharon governments. While focused on the events, her columns are attentive to the surroundings, seasons and ambiance. For example, in the piece entitle 'Pesach Reflections' (March 19, 2002, pp. 93-94) reprinted from her website HelpingIsrael.com, the clutter of her bedroom in her childhood home in a Cleveland serves as a metaphor for the turmoil of the times. Horowitz then projects the clear admonitions of her mother to clean up the room upon her own attempt at putting things in order in Israel's messy reality. The use of familiar, everyday situations helps get her points across. Beyond the personal comparisons, Horowitz also mulls over philosophical questions, such as, the nature of protest, the issue of incitement to violence and the limits of expressing dissent. These thoughts are prevalent in her columns of the Rabin era. In a reflective statement, entitled 'Post Mortem' (pp. 44-45), which appeared in The Jerusalem Post, on November 19, 1995, two weeks after the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin, Horowitz undertakes 'painful exploratory surgery' and declares 'I wasn't responsible for the assassin's bullet.' She reminds her readers that 'we didn't have to create rage – the terror attacks did it for us,' and remarks: 'We were the 'victims of the peace'' [the Orwellian term used by government spokespersons for victims of terror attacks], and 'there was no stopping the process.' She concludes: 'Did we incite? Possibly. Were we tolerant and empathetic to the point of negligence? Yes. But it is also fair to say that in a country where the government first ignores and then demonizes a significant segment of its people, the unspeakable can happen.' These words may be logical, albeit overly indulgent towards the demonstrators of 1995 and to those who threatened the life of the prime minister. We must recall that when they were written, they raised a point which few dared to utter, namely, that the government seemed unperturbed by the deaths of civilians in terrorist attacks and that it vilified those who opposed its policies. In retrospect, the idea of an urgent necessity for dialogue between the various sectors of Israeli society and the realization that accepting terror as part of a peace process does not make any sense, principles which we take for granted today, may be indebted in part to such outspoken columns.
One can neither read all of the columns nor look at all of the images in one sitting. Newspaper articles are meant to be read in context and in relation to the events,
personal and political, which they describe. Many of the excellent press photographs are extremely painful to look at, as they show the horror of terrorist attacks or the virulent hatred of Israel's enemies. She gives full photo credits, exact dates and explanatory captions at the end of the book. Horowitz's well-photographed paintings and sketches add a unique dimension to the volume, as they are an integral part of her personal-political outlook and show how events affect the creative process. A particular event, which evokes a Biblical figure or narrative often serves as her inspiration. For example, the sketch of Rachel weeping for her children (cover, preface) and Noah's Ark (p.252), actually painted in 1986, are exceptionally good.
The book ends with a chronology and brief description of the many Arab terror attacks on Israel's civilians and soldiers from the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 until January, 2005, and a list of the names, ages, and home towns of nearly victims of each attack, based on the data of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The list of well over a thousand names seems endless.
The Oslo Years will serve as a source for historians who at a later date will study Israeli society and the history of the Jewish people. It is the sustained expression of intelligent and concerned dissent, which manages to be reflective, engaged and creative at the same time.
Rivkah Duker Fishman Jewish Political Studies Review