How Israel is becoming more orthodox

 

A deep change in the demography of Israel is occuring. The orthodox (17%) and ultra-orthodox (8%) make for 25% of the population. Additional 55% are “traditional”, for a total of 80% religious, which leaves 20% of the Jews in Israel secular. Jews in America aren’t aware of it because “almost all the elites in Israeli society […] are found within the secular 20 percent, so that they frame the picture that outsiders get of Israel.”

 

Birth rate of ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel is 5% a year. It’s triple than that of the secular Jews. “Among Jewish students, haredi students make up 61% of the first-grade age group. Just 19% are secular, and another 19% are National Religious.” “A third of all elementary school-children in Israel are ultra-Orthodox.” In Jerusalem, secular schoolchildren are 13%. 40% are haredic. “The hareidi-religious system of recognized non-public schools experienced the fastest growth by far, with enrollment up by 3.76% in just one year.”

 

“Private ultra-Orthodox schools are supported by State budget yet they do not adhere to the curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education”. The Haredic schoolchildren learn to obey the Torah laws only, to defy the State laws and not to serve in the army. “Yeshiva students who declare that “Torah study is their artistry” can delay their conscription as long as they continue their studies, under the so-called Tal Law. In practice, many of them end up never serving at all”.

 

Not only the haredi anti-Zionist anti-modern education is supported by taxpayers money: “[There is an] ongoing effort to make the [general] educational system more religious.” General education in Israel gradually contains more religion, on the expense of English, science and general culture. The secular, scientific and democratic education budgets are systematically cut off in favor of budgets for religious-messianic educational content.

 

“The Israeli army is undergoing a similar process”. Religion infiltrates the army. Religious propaganda is spread, paid for – again – by taxpayers money. There are gradually more religious commanders at every level of the command and many soldiers say they will obey a rabbi and not a military commander in a case of a contradiction between the Torah laws and the military commands. “The Military Rabbinate’s Jewish Awareness Department recently ordered 25,000 books for Israel Defense Forces soldiers, [with] an illustrated children’s prayer book.” These processes results with steady deterioration of adherence and loyalty of the Israelis to the values and principles of democracy.

 

The Haredies get salary from the state in order to learn Torah in the yeshivot (religious schools). They don’t work for their living but rely on secular and the non-haredic religious segments of the population to sustain them. This tendency is so severe that a major Haredi politician admitted lately that a haredic city is unsustainable without a secular population to finance its infrastructure and public services. While discussing whether secular are to be encouraged to leave the mixed city of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, so it will become an entirely haredic city, the former haredic minister of interior, Eli Yishay, admitted: “A haredi city [is] lacking income, property tax and other taxes”; it can not sustain itself. However, efforts are made to reverse that tendency, to “integrate more members of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community into the labor force.”

 

Many (or most) of the ultra-religious MKs (members of the Knesset, Israeli parliament) lack any understanding of modern science, international relations or even knowledge of simple English. The rightist parties (such as The Jewish Home – a major partner in the government) and the governing party, the Likud, has many messianic MKs. “These extremists, however, are only the tip of the iceberg, reflecting racist attitudes that are found among much larger groups of Israeli Jews.” Arabs who want to buy apartments in Jewish towns are threatened with violence. The main moving force behind this tendency are religious leaders: “Dozens of municipal rabbis signed a manifest ordering a halachic ban on selling or renting land and apartments in Israel to non-Jews.”

 

“the Chief Rabbinate [has] strict control over Jewish weddings, Jewish divorce proceedings, conversions, and the question of who is a Jew for the purposes of immigration.” “The state of Israel […] does not enable civil marriage. The state forbids and disapproves of any civil marriages or non-religious divorces performed amongst within the country. Because of this, some Israelis choose to marry outside of Israel”, as two of my sisters chose.

 

A new law proposal aims at fining any store which opens in Shabbat. Had it been in the United States, the Supreme court would throw it out of the window as a blunt breach of the first amendment. Here the government approved the bill and it‘s going to the Knesset for legislation. Would the Supreme Court in Israel stop the invasion of the religion into the law?

 

Unlikely. The judiciary aims at giving greater importance to the Old Testament legal code on the expense of the modern western legal codes. There is a growing tendency to “inject the spirit of Halacha into the process of legislation”, so the courts will have to judge according to the Jewish law. Former “Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman […] said that “step by step, Torah law will become the binding law in the State of Israel.”

 

To conclude, what happens in Israel reminds of the possibility of a Republican president and Tea Party representatives trying to influence him. However, the growth rate of the ultra-orthodox population and the religion’s takeover of the army, the education State system and the branches of government may cause this scenario to be only a first stage. In addition, the United States has a strong democratic tradition, to which also most of the Republicans adhere. In Israel there’s no such a tradition. A (secular) Likud party MK named Miki Zohar said lately (my translation): “I’m worried about the future of the Jewish idea. I say that the State of Israel can very easily in a few dozens of years be [not “become”. “be”. E.A.] a democratic state. i.e., it will no longer remain Jewish. It will be democratic, and when it becomes democratic, the existence of this people is a risk here.”

 

This ignorance regarding both the essence of democracy and it’s importance is rooted in Israel, unlike in the United States, in which the separation of religion and state is entrenched in the Bill of Rights – inseparable part of the Constitution. The courts in Israel, which are supposed to be the barrier and the shield of democracy, will soon be obliged – by the law of the land – to judge according the Jewish Halachik 2,000 years old law instead of the modern, western, democratic law. When it happens, Israel will smoothly enter the company around it, of ultra-orthodox fundamentalist states such as Iran, Isis, Saudi-Arabia and the like, which cut thieves hands, whip them with a lash, forbids women out of the house and ban every free thought.

 

 

 

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What is it like, to be a Jew in America? – a letter to an American Jewish friend

For me, the question in the title was never relevant. If at all, the opposite has shaped me more: what is it like, to be a Jew in Israel who’s in love with America? I know, I know, America is not just the mere idea of America – “liberty and justice for all”, “We hold these truths to be self evident”, a Walt Whitman’s or Langston Hughes’ poem, an Obama or a Lincoln self-made-man speech, a Woody Allen’s or a Spike Lee’s old film, a Knicks game or the Grand Canyon. It’s a long time since I’ve been acknowledged to the disenchantment of the ideal image of America, through Howard Zinn’s book, my MA in slavery, the civil rights movement struggles etc. But it’s like the woman you live with and love: whatever are her disadvantages and deficiencies, and no matter how powerfully you’re aware to them, you just can’t help it but see – above all – the reasons you’re still together after so many years.

 

Now, I’ve read through Facebook mourning sentences of an American friend over a late Rabbi who has suddenly passed away, a man whom I’ve never met, and while reading the words written about him by many who loved him – why I was doing it? Was I just trying to get a glimpse of the ways by which American Jews are linked to their own Jewish-American entity, identity? Was I trying to decipher an identity of which I know almost nothing? – anyway, while I was reading it, I saw the old Jewish words, written by a man unbeknownst to me:

 

Hamakom yenakhem etkhem b’tokh sh’ar avelei tziyon virushalayim.

 

May the Lord comfort and sustain you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

 

And even before I got to the end of the sentence I felt a stubborn tear close to the corner of the eye.

 

Because, you see, an American Jew to me – except of some dear though remote friends over there – an American Jew to me is a man who is deeply embedded in the culture I always adored from afar, and who has never has any reason to seek anything beyond the truly vast horizons that his mother country offers him. At least as much as I can get it, with my very limited comprehension. So when such a person – an American Jew – seeks comfort in so old and traditional Hebrew words – it came to me like – wow, we’re sharing the same culture, language, heritage, vocabulary, i.e. Hebrew, even though you, American-Jews, have almost no visible incentive or reason to do such a thing. I mean, for what reason you still stick to these old, incomprehensible, words? You all have the vast capacities of the American language to take from. And still, you choose the Hebrew in such a moment. I just can’t take it for granted. It fills me with wonder, as if I see some Godly creation. Well, a minor one. The effort, shown by the mere writing, commenting of these few Hebrew words, earned with so much toil and perseverance, the effort to preserve the Jewishness as a part of one’s identity – well, I can’t take it for granted. An American Jew could find his focal point in so many things, but he still chooses some sort of Jewishness. And I can’t take it for granted. For, as I’ve already said, America for me is so many things other than being a Jew, that I find it pretty remarkable that this old tradition is still one of the focal points of an American Jew (or Jewess).

 

And it’s quite ironic, since for me, being a Jew in Israel is never complete, my identity here is never complete, without this opposite strata in me: America. The Founding Fathers, The Civil War, American poetry and prose, Jazz, NBA, Jazz, Jazz, and so many little milestones that shape my very own history, even though they are not connected to the Jewish history at all. Only to America. And you, my American Jewish friends over there – you make the other way around: you take Judaism. In some sort of way, while I’m embedded – randomly, just because I was born a Jew – in the Jewish culture and I’m trying to make the most of it – rejoice in its holidays, take a pride in being a part of an ancient people, and of some of its moral values (I always try to comfort myself by thinking that some rabbis were escorting M. L. King Jr. in his marches) – from time to time I have these reminders that for you it’s perhaps the other way around: that you were born Americans, and the freedom and the might of America and the heritage and the history and the culture and even the landscapes of America (from Billy Joel, NY State of Mind, through the vastness of the Middle West to California, as if I was in Auster’s Moon Palace) are all natural for you, natural as breathing is natural – and still, you stubbornly, ceaselessly, try to link yourself to this Jewishness. What’s in there, in this American Jewishness – I don’t know. After all, I was never an American Jew. But maybe, maybe, I got a hint of it, a scent of it, by the mere words written over there by a man I even don’t know –

 

Hamakom yenakhem etkhem b’tokh sh’ar avelei tziyon virushalayim.

 

May the Lord comfort and sustain you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

 

Perhaps that’s what bridges the gap; what makes the hyphen.

 

Should the Capitalist ethos be a bit mended?

 

I just can’t understand the GOP. Finally America tries to get minimal conditions for it’s underprivileged, to give some basic health security to its most poor population, to minimize a bit the outrageous inequality – not even get close to the level of social security in semi-socialist states like Israel or outspoken social-democracies like the Scandinavian states – and the Ultra-Republicans are, panic-stricken, trying to block it.

I can’t understand John Boehner. A Majority House leader ought to respect the law-making process of the House whose majority he leads. The Affordable Care Act was accepted by a large part of his party as well, not to mention the fact it was upheld by the (conservative) Supreme court Chief Justice Roberts. It’s an anti-democratic measure, trying to block a law already passed, by threatening with – and creating – such a huge damage to the US. How come America, which always found Constitutional instruments sufficient to handle horrible situations such as a bloody Civil War, two World Wars, a Cold War, half a century of Communist fear and strife, two great depressions – all without breaching the Constitution and with an impressive civil unity – how a part of that nation is so terribly afraid of expanding the social security net for a larger part of its inhabitants, to the extent it risks the entire state with a grave economical outcomes?

In Israel a wide security net is given for free – unlike in the US – also to those segments in the society who – due to their ideological persuasion not to work but, instead, learn religious scripts – don’t qualify for paying Income Tax; due to their religious beliefs don’t share the common Israeli belief in the state’s right to exist (because it was born by a secular sin and according to their belief, only the Messiah ought to declare it’s existence); don’t accept many of the basic obligations which every other Israeli citizen accepts, such as compulsory three years military service and being a part of the working power that contributes to the well-being of their fellow citizens. About sixth of the Israel population voted for ultra-orthodox parties – whose representatives object the drafting of their voters – ultra-orthodox youngsters – to the army; demand a separation of men and women in public sphere, in an alarming contrast to democratic and equality values; and – to make it short – don’t share many (if not most) of the mainstream Israeli agenda, tradition, culture, heritage and values, and vehemently opposes the social consensus. And still, we willingly pay social security tax to the government, with full awareness of the fact that this money goes straightly to provide for that very seclusive, anti-democratic population. We do it because we share the socialist ethos upon which this state was found, of which most of us – The descendants of the Founding Fathers of Israel – are proud. Because our state is strong enough so pay this price. Yes, I’m talking about Israel, a capitalist state.

Ought not the American capitalist myth be a bit mended? Ought it not include a bit more humility? Hadn’t the 2008 crisis been enough, as an evidence that a capitalism without a bit of heart doesn’t pay off?

The Republicans have been through so many crises, much more severe than this, without disrupting the governmental system. When Democrat presidents got the US into two World Wars, one Vietnam war and one Korea war, I can’t recall the Republicans trying – or appealing toward – such extreme measure.

The entire notion of Federalism, since the days of the Founding Fathers – an ethos of combined efforts, based upon common consensus reached – is a Republican idea. It is so since the days of the John Adams’ Federal Party, through the Lincoln administration’s internal improvements policy, up to these days. So trust your system of government AND your party’s heritage a bit more, Republicans.

Do We Have a Weapon Culture?

The absurd claim of the NRA supporters is: “if you give more weapons around, the streets would be safer because people would protect themselves in an event of a shooting assault.” It’s such a totally ill-founded, lacking of proof, stupid argument. Has there ever been a case in America in which a civilian with weapon neutralized or killed a mass murderer in the middle the act? I guess not a single case. It is like believing in some deity, alien of other phenomena with no evidence or proof of its existence. It’s like a religion. That religion of the NRA kills kids. It’s one of those times I think Israel – with its wars and Terror – is saner than the US.

Neither any member of my family nor anyone I know at work or neighborhood – some hundreds of persons, most of them in Jerusalem and some of them in the West Bank – no one of them holds a gun or has been talking with me about buying one, not even during the great Terror wave of about 10 years ago. Perhaps it’s because there’s nothing you can do against a suicide bomber that explodes somewhere, but I think the main reason is simpler:

We give every aspect of our life to experts. We let our health to be taken care of by Doctors, our cars – by mechanics, our money – by bankers and investments counselors, our apartment contracts – by lawyers, etc., but when it comes to the most precious thing – our personal and our kids’ security – and when it is most dangerous to try to deal with an emergency situation unprofessionally, all by ourselves – that’s just the time many Americans don’t trust the professionals – police, National Guard, Army, professional security guards. Instead of giving the defense of their children lives to pros, they give it to amateurs: themselves. This senseless inconsistency makes me furious.

One US Congressmen once said: “what are we supposed to do? Put an armed and trained security guard at the gates of each store, mall, bus, school and university? It’s insanely impractical!”

So it means that Israel is insane, after all, because that’s exactly what we do here for the last 10 years. Whenever I enter a mall or a drugstore, there is an armed security guard at the entrance and most of the times (unless I’m holding a baby or so) I’m demanded to open my bag, empty my pocket and go through this machine that beeps when you carry any metal thing. No weapon is allowed, period. Not a gun, a pistol, not even a knife. The bag of every 90 years old feeble woman is checked at the entrance to every restaurant or a cinema, every national of municipal office, every public space. Once there was an armed security guard on each bus, next to the driver, and also in many bus stations. Meanwhile they stopped it – we don’t need it now – but when it was necessary it was done – and it was proven practical and operative.

The only armed people around are the trained and authorized ones. This fact is seen by all in Israel as the most natural thing. I don’t want to be armed. I would feel unsafe had I been armed. We all know we pay more taxes to finance this extra-guarding, and it’s fine with us.

At the entrance to every school there is an armed guard. Every school in Israel. No matter where. No weapon, not a knife and surely not a gun are allowed at school, at any condition whatsoever. Period.

The only guns my kids have ever seen are random toys at the toy stores. We don’t hold such toys at home, except of water guns to shoot water each other in the balcony in the summer, guns that look more like pumps. It’s not that we have anti-weapon ideology. Not at all. It’s the fact that weapon is in no way a part of our culture. We respect weapons, but the second emotion towards them isn’t love or pride; it’s a deep fear. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing. It may seem as a paradox, in a war-experienced state such as Israel, but that’s how it is here.

***

Of course it makes no harm to be cautious. In the wave of Terror 10-8 years ago, I always looked around. Always. At the buses, the streets, the crowded places. Even though there was a massive security guards presence. I used to walk in my neighborhood Emek Refaim in Jerusalem, with the dog, held by a leash, and the baby on my chest, in the carrier, looking at a certain café and thinking: ‘anyone who sits in that café is crazy. The tables are just in the middle of the street, so any suicide bomber can reach the middle of the seated crowd before the guard checks him. It’s the perfect place for a suicide bomber. I have a baby. I take no chances. I cross the street before I get that zone. And I’ll surely never ever sit in that café.’

One night I woke up by an explosion. The window glasses in our second floor apartment were shaking. I got out of bed, went to the living room and looked outside the window. We were living then in a side street, separated from the main street only by a row of houses. It was about midnight but the street was full with people running towards the path between these houses that led to the main street. I didn’t dare leaving the house and join them. I was scared of what I might see. I turned the TV on and saw the first photos. Even before I saw the first reports I knew it’s that café that has been bombed. I felt such anger about those who were sitting in that café, as if they were inviting the suicide bomber. I looked at the ambulances, medical and security forces, sirens and shaking persons, and thought: ‘I told you, you stupid, blind people, I told you.’

One might say it’s an insane reaction, but there’s an old Chinese proverb (I’ve made up just now) – “An insane reaction to an insane situation is a normal reaction.”

How America Kills its Children under the Protection of the Constitution, or: The 2nd Amendment Reconsidered

Several hours before the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Michigan made it easier by law to kill children: “‘Gun-free zones’ won’t be so gun-free under legislation that would allow concealed weapons at schools, churches, arenas, hospitals and other specified locations. The bill would let licensed concealed pistol holders with additional training to carry guns in such zones”. They all “take the 2nd“.

The U.S. Constitution has an extraordinary ability to adjust to the political, technological and demographic changes of the last centuries. It’s the oldest constitution that still functions. It survived a Civil War, two World Wars and several economic crises that in other western, civilized, industrialized states led to the fall of republics and constitutions and to the emergence of totalitarian, murderous regimes. How did the Constitution survive?

Some Constitutional historians say it’s due to the Constitution’s sophisticated mechanism of checks and balances, division and separation of powers;

 Some emphasize the mechanism of amendment embedded in the Constitution. A unique character of the Constitution is it’s openness to change, sometimes in reversed directions – keep in mind the anti-alcohol (1919) and the anti-anti-alcohol (1933) amendments. Can the Bill of Rights be changed? The acceptance of The Bill of Right was a part of the negotiations that were politically needed for the ratifications of the Constitution in the States; the ten Amendments in the Bill of Rights are not Constitutionally protected from being amended, any more than any other Amendments are. America emerged stronger from these ideological contemplations and has reaffirmed and reassured its basic values through and throughout this flexible and vital Constitutionally-embedded mechanism of Amendments;

 And some historians concentrate on the change of the moods and spirits of the Nation as expressed in the Supreme Court’s changing interpretations of the Constitution. The segregationist Supreme Court “Plessy vs. Ferguson” decision of 1896, for example, was ruled on the same Constitutional grounds of the anti-segregation “Brown vs. the Topeka, Kansas, board of education” decision of 1954. What had changed in the years between the two contradictory decisions? Not the Constitution nor the relevant amendments rather the national spirit due to the lessons of American History: Blacks fought in two World Wars, worked for education, employment, housing, self-help, self-advancement, fair chance, contributed to the American culture, academy, economy – and the public mood has been changed accordingly, a swing of the pendulum that found its expression in the “Brown” decision and in Supreme Court Judge Hugo Black’s effort during the 1970’s to get “Brown” implemented in the South. Should the interpretation of the Constitution change also now, regarding the 2nd amendment and the gun control issue, due to the recent, bleeding events?

 Some would say that the principles that are embodied in the Bill of Rights make the Bill sanctified. What should be sanctified? the 2nd Amendment or the intention behind it? When Madison phrased the 2nd Amendment he thought of the Redcoats who entered houses of American peace-loving and quiet farmers, used their property, ate their food, slept in their beds and took anything they liked on behalf of the foreign sovereign – His Majesty, King George the Third. Madison wanted to express the public sentiment favoring an ability of self-defense, facing any possible tyrant – from within or without. Perhaps he thought of the Shays’ Rebellion, too – a couple of years before the enactment of the Constitution, a rebellion that was another, if a meager, disruption of the social and political order of the newly independent ex-colonies that were now loosely confederated. Madison had in mind the need to enable a man to protect himself against a foreign sovereign or a rebellion from within. That was the case at the end of the 18th century. Can one find even the slightest similarity between those days and today? Does the current situation remind the Americans, even vaguely, the historic background upon which the 2nd Amendment was put into the Bill of Rights? Does this amendment, in its original form and intention, answer in any way the urgent need for personal safety and security by any American today? When was the last time an American saw foreign or rebellious armed forces at their doorstep? What would have Madison said had he known of the Sandy Hook massacre? Or the one of Columbine? Does allowing this wide permissiveness regarding the right to carry arms follow the same spirit of the 2nd amendment he had written and the Bill of Rights he had shaped?

The NRA may say: “the 2nd Amendment is our tradition. It’s part of our values and of our definition of freedom. It’s our heritage and we’re proud of it.” Weapon is not the value and never was; weapon is an instrument to secure the main values expressed by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness. Two centuries ago an almost unrestricted allocation of weapons was perhaps necessary in order to protect these values; today it undermines them in an unthinkable way, paving the highway to mass child-slaughter.

The chances today for a citizen in almost any western state to get killed by a malicious armed act of another citizen are the lowest compared to at least the last 10 centuries. In any state except one: the USA. When I see the unforgivable, unendurable easiness with which you, the Americans, let your children buy weapons, kill and be killed, I’m filled with the sense of numb shock. A Canadian reporter wrote: “[T]he daycare near the [Newtown, Connecticut] school has a “lockdown” protocol. What does it say about us that a school for three-year-olds has a set of rules to follow in case a madman with a gun enters?”

 I don’t live in the peaceful Canada, the quiet Switzerland or Scotland, the pastoral Austria or Australia or the lovely Sweden. I live in the War and Terror-stricken Israel. Here weapons are given only to security forces personnel. An Israeli citizen is allowed to buy a single pistol, sparsely, when they prove they need that weapon due to their exceedingly dangerous living environment (not in Israel – in the West Bank) or current occupation (e.g. security guards in banks), and only after a going through rigorous mental and criminal history record checks, followed by a closely-monitored training process of using that particular fire-arm. No one else in Israel is ever allowed to purchase guns, be them automatic, semi-automatic or other. Ever. In Israel, “Firepower” is used by civilians only in the context of video games. When was the last time a shooting occurred in an Israeli school, performed by an Israeli citizen? Well, there was never such an incident. Not a single one.

 The last time the US Federal Government and the Supreme Court intervened widely and massively in the States Rights (except in biracial interstate commerce cases such as Truman-administration interstate train-segregation or the “Brown” decision etc.) was in the Civil War. When it comes to Gay marriages, Medical Marijuana or the minimum age for a driving license, the Federal Branches hesitate. They generally don’t intervene in matters of States’ Rights, secured by the 10th Amendment. But America is in the midst of a kind of a continuous Civil War right now. This time only one side is armed; it is armed in an unprecedented manner; and it is backed-up by a conservative Supreme Court, a Congress that behaves as if it was a branch of the NRA, and a too careful President, troubled by the upcoming so-called fiscal cliff, hence hesitates to confront the Congress. No national authority takes care of this national crisis. No such an authority or personality even admits it to be such a crisis. If guns are to continue to prevail as a national symbol and heritage, the Americans should get used to the idea that piles of dead children – and incessant bereavement – would increasingly be a perennially growing part of the American heritage as well.

A Brief History of the Right Questions

 

At the 16th Century, Peter Bruegel the Elder has painted his Landscape with the Fall of Icarus: a farmer works in the field, ships sail by – and at the bottom, at the corner,almost invisible, Icarus falls to the sea. The Icarus Myth is remembered for thousands of years; the farmer in the painting had lived and died in anonymity. Why, therefore, had Bruegel painted such a small and marginal Icarus and such a central farmer?

A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari isn’t a conventional, standard history book. Its points of view are of a surprise also for the scholar reader and the professional historian; they satisfy one’s curiosity, they are thought-provoking and they may enrage many readers. It’s not a history text whose content is foreseeable, that fits a certain outlook, and in whose index the reader might find anything he already knows, expects and likes.

Through illuminating connections between events and their meanings, and through a spectacular integration of history, paleontology, anthropology and sociology, Harari reviews the key questions dealing with the riddle of our being here: how had Homo Sapiens had developed from a minor zoological species to the position of the ruler of the Earth? Which mental structures and beliefs it had created in order to stabilize and expand its domination? What were these ideas? How were created the ideas which had changed human history? What can one learn about the human nature by reviewing the way it all had happened? The questions Harari asks enlighten the history through an important, fascinating and clarifying perspective – much more than the routine pile of tyrants, commanders, battles, dates and eras that any regular history book is composed of.

Which events influenced most on humanity’s fate? Not wars but domestication of plants and animals; not conquests of cities but technical inventions and scientific discoveries; not formulating political coalitions but the invention of ideologies: money, religions, nations. Every change in the perception of the human consciousness, every change in communication, Technology or medicine, any development of the interconnectedness of the ultra-values of the western world – capitalism, technology, science – had influenced the human fate much more than any conquest of a certain city, a certain battle or an empire’s rising and falling. That’s why the medical researcher William Harvey is much more important than Genghis Khan; that’s why the Penicillin discoverer Ernst Boris Chain has influenced – and is influencing – the lives of much more people than Hitler and Stalin has ever influenced, combined; that’s why fifty Osama bin Ladens aren’t the equal of one Thomas Edison, Humphry Davy or Michael Faraday. That’s why the anonymous peasant who had brought a sheaf of wild wheat to his house is much more important than Icarus; and that’s why Yuval Noah Harari’s book is one of the most important popular history books of the recent years.