JERUSALEM (JTA) — British author Ian McEwan received the prestigious Jerusalem Prize during a ceremony in which he criticized Jewish settlement and Israel’s blockade of Gaza.
McEwan was presented with the prize Sunday by Israeli President Shimon Peres at the opening of the Jerusalem Book Fair. The award, Israel’s highest literary honor for foreign writers, is given to an author whose works best exemplify the "freedom of the individual in society."
The author of "Amsterdam," "Atonement" and "On Chesil Beach" was under pressure by pro-Palestinian groups, including British Writers in Support of Palestine, to reject the prize.
Instead, in a letter published in the British newspaper The Guardian, Mc Ewan wrote that "I’m for finding out for myself, and for dialogue, engagement, and looking for ways in which literature, especially fiction, with its impulse to enter other minds, can reach across political divides."
McEwan last Friday joined the weekly protest in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah against Jewish residents of the predominately Palestinian neighborhood. He marched with Israeli novelist David Grossman, a weekly participant.
“I hope that the next time that I come to Israel, there won’t be any need to demonstrate in these types of circumstances," McEwan said during the protest.
McEwan had planned to meet with Palestinian writers during his visit, but they refused to meet with him, Reuters reported.