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One of my favorite writers from Israel surely would have to be Amos Oz. Unto Death, the fourth book by him was published in English in 1975 even though it appeared in Hebrew in 1971.Without any doubt, the most famous Israeli contemporary writer, who has won numerous prizes over the last 30 years was a young writer then, born in Jerusalem in 1939 and needs little further introduction. The  woodcut artist who illustrated this book, Jacob Pins, does deserve to be better known outside Israel where he worked all of his adult life. Jacob Pins (1917-2005) came to Israel as a young adult from Germany, and is very well known in artistic circles in Israel where he taught art between 1956 and 1977 at all the best known schools including the Bezalel Academy. He had studied under Jacob Steinhardt in Israel, another German born Israeli artist of a previous generation (1887-1968) who in turn had studied in Germany under the well known German painter Lovis Corinth. Steinhardt was a contemporary of many painters who adhered to the German Expressionist Style of painting. Pins is best known for his woodcuts, a difficult art to execute, he employed the same expressionist scarcity of line and the positioning of subject matter that we also find in the woodcuts by Expressionists painters from the German Bruecke Group. Like Steinhardt and Pins, those Expressionist artists had mastered this ancient art which comes to us with a 600 year old western tradition.Jacob Pins became a well known expert on a certain type of Japanese wood block print, he consequently wrote a book on the subject and became Israel’s biggest collector of Japanese wood block prints, which after his death were donated to the State of Israel. A Pins Foundation was established in the German town where he was born and a group of German citizens who decided to honor their exterminated Jewish citizens including Pins’ family put up an interesting link (in German).

Now back to the book and Amos Oz, I think the second novella, Late Love is especially worth reading. With a visionary sense, Oz describes the influence of Russian Jews on Israeli life, a “problem” that has recently been brought back into the limelight in Israel where it is believed that these immigrants and their political leadership form a “state within the state” or in political terms “Try to divert Jewishness away from Jews“, this according to popular sentiment expressed in the Israeli press. A similar type of sentiment seemed to exist in New York where recent non-Jewish Russian immigration has turned some sections of the city into a new Odessa on the Hudson, run by the new “Fifth ColumnRussian Mafia linked to the KGB under Putin.

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