The Genius of Israel: The Surprising Resilience of a Divided Nation in a Turbulent World by Dan Senor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Israel is a small country facing tremendous obstacles. It is threatened and attacked by well-funded genocidal enemies. Meanwhile the international community, such as it is, is ambivalent at best and internally, Israel is regularly rocked by protests and religious and ethnic divisions. Yet, Israel, according to various international metrics, is one of the happiest countries. This apparent paradox is what Dan Senor and Saul Singer have set out to explain.
Looking at the different parts of Israeli society, they try to find out what makes Israel resilient and happy in the face of the many challenges it faces. This is what they mean by the “Genius of Israel”: how it is able to deal so successfully with its unique challenges as well as the problems afflicting most of the rest of the wealthy, liberal democracies. The short answer is that Israelis share a collective meaning and purpose, with a sense of community cementing that meaning and purpose.
This ties together much of what they look at: the educational system, the military, the tech sector, the family, the sabbath, and the regional historical connections. They explore the ways these elements all connect to, create, and reinforce that purpose and community.
They also look at the Haredi (ultra-orthodox) and Israeli Arab communities. While outliers in many ways, they also share some of the features that create that purpose and community. They point out how Israel has to do better by these two groups by incorporating them more into the mainstream. But they also show the ways that this integration is being driven internally in these communities.
All in all, an informative and engaging exploration and explanation of Israeli society. Important to read to understand Israel.
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