Posted in Batya Gur, Books, writer

Batya Gur: Writer and Journalist


Batya Gur [1947-2005],  an Israeli and a writer in Hebrew is best remembered for the creation of complex, closed  worlds in her detective fiction.  Her writing reflected the social, economic and political realities of Israel.  As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said: ‘No part of Israeli reality escaped her eye: ethnic discrimination, poverty and unemployment, the life of new immigrants and all those at the margins of society.’

She taught literature for several years before writing her first novel, in which she created the sensitive and intelligent detective Michael Ohayon, whose ideas  reflected her own . Born in Morocco and educated at Cambridge, Ohayon joined the Jerusalem police, but remained to some extent an outsider. Writing in Hebrew, her Ohayon books have been translated into English and other languages. The Saturday Morning Murder [1992] takes a look at the world of psychoanalysis. In Literary Murder [1993], the background is the academic setting of Hebrew University. Murder on a Kibbutz [1994], 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 [1999] 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 was published in 2004, and  Murder in Jerusalem in 2006. Gur’s other books include I didn’t Imagine It Would Be This Way and Stone For Stone.

Her novels  were also televised.

At times the troubled conditions in Israel  forced her to comment on politics.

At a  conference in Brussels in March 2004 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  Haaretz, Gur recounted in one  article how she was arrested when she asked three young policewomen why they were harassing 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.”

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, both in her books and her articles,  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.

Unfortunately Batya Gur died on 19 May 2005 after a nine-month battle with cancer. She was 57 years old.