“What if I was him? What if I was her?”

“See, I get up every morning very early, I drink a cup of coffee, I sit myself by my desk, and I start imagining, ‘what if I was him? What if I was her?’ That’s how I make a living: by imagining the other. I imagine the other. That’s my professional life. And my hobby, as well: I sit myself in street cafés, and when I have nothing else to do, when I’m waiting for someone…” He looks out over the café we are sitting in now, and smiles. “I look at the other guests in the cafés and try to imagine their life, who they really are, what are they talking about at that faraway table?” So that’s what I do. It’s easy for me. It’s much harder for ordinary people who are not writers, who are not novelists, to imagine the other in times of war, or even in times of a family feud. In this I belong in a minority. Most people don’t bother.” He repeats himself, with a shake of disdain: “Most people don’t bother.” This, he adds quickly, isn’t unique to Israel. “It is caused by anger, my friend. Anger. War begets anger and hatred and resentment. Very few people in Britain could pay any attention at all to the ordeal of Dresden and Leipzig. Very few people at the end of World War Two in London would pay any attention to the suffering of the innocent civilians in those cities.”

-Amos Oz, interview by Johann Hari, Independent UK, March 2009: Israel’s voice of reason: Amos Oz on war, peace and life as an outsider

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