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Amos Elon, Israeli author

JERUSALEM — Author Amos Elon was glad when the State of Israel came into existence, but immediately criticized the “occupation” of the Palestinians and then eventually left the country for a quiet life in Italy, where he died on Monday, May 25, 2009, at age 82.

He passed away from a blood disease similar to leukemia, in the Tuscany home he shared with his wife Beth.

“He wanted to be here — he wanted to be in this place,” said Beth Elon about her husband’s desires to be in Tuscany during his final days.

Elon unexpectedly bought the home in 1972 after noticing it during a visit with an Italian filmmaker. He sold his Jerusalem home and permanently moved to Tuscany in 2004.

“I prefer to be a pensioner, sitting on a mountain and gazing at the gorgeous view,” said Elon in an interview with Haaretz right before he left Jerusalem.

Elon was born in Vienna in 1926. He moved to Mandatory Palestine with his parents in 1933 and studied law and history at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and at Cambridge.

He began his career as a star foreign correspondent for Haaretz, writing a number of article series. These included “Second Israel,” which was about the underprivileged sectors of the country.

Elon was an early critic of the occupation of the territories, warning of the unavoidable results of trying to occupy a foreign people. He also strongly believed in keeping religion out of the government.

“The occupation certainly corrupted Israeli society,” said Elon in 2004. “There is no doubt about that.”

Elon wrote The Israelis: Founders and Sons in 1971, in which he proclaimed Israel’s need to deal with a Palestinian homeland.

Elon continued to publish a number of books, including Herzl, considered one of the best biographies to date of Zionist founder Theodor Herzl.

Later in his career, he wrote a number of books about the accomplishments of German Jewry. His final book, The Pity of It All, followed 200 years of Jews in Germany, ending right before the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Personally Elon was known as enormously charming, but very private. He spent his final years in Italy reading his favorite books and writing occasional pieces for the New York Times Book Review.

Elon is survived by his wife Beth, his daughter Danae, his sister and two grandchildren. A memorial service will be held in Jerusalem next month.

Despite Elon’s disillusionment with Israeli politics, and his move to Italy, he always felt Israel was his homeland and Jerusalem his hometown.

“What is a homeland, if not the place where you kiss a girl for the first time?” said Elon in the 2004 interview.

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