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Minimalist Israel in the Mediterranean colours of Thessaloniki Book Fair

20 May 2014 / 19:05:22  GRReporter
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The presentation of the country took place in the presence of authors of the book "Israel Start up Nation" Dan Senor and Saul Singer and showed some data about Israel. After the US, for example, Israel has the highest number of NASDAQ companies listed on the stock exchange, more than any other country in the world, including India, China, Korea, Singapore and Ireland. Israel holds the absolute lead in the world in terms of resources put into research and development. The economic growth of Israel is very fast compared to the average growth of economically developed countries in the world through most of the years after 1995. "Even the wars repeatedly led by Israel did not adversely affect its economic development. In the six years after 2000, Israel was affected not only by the bursting of the technology bubble in the world but also by the most intense period of terrorist attacks in its history as well as by the second war in Lebanon. However, the share of Israel in the global capital market did not decline but more than doubled, from 15% to 30%. Stock prices in Tel Aviv were at higher levels on the last day of the war in Lebanon than on the first as was the case after the three-week military offensive in Gaza in 2009, reads the brochure accompanying the presentation of the book.
The book by Senor and Singer tries to offer a key to this mystery. Why is it Israel and not another country? One possible explanation could be that hardships and difficulties, and need, give rise to ingenuity. Other small countries living in a hostile neighbourhood or surroundings, such as South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan can boast of equally impressive development statistics but none of them has formed such a culture of creative initiative, which can be compared to that of Israel.
Some suggest that this is due to a very Jewish ingredient that acts as a driving force. The idea that Jews are "smart" is deeply rooted in the Western world. The authors report that they themselves have established this. "When we mentioned to someone that we were writing a book about why Israel is such an innovative nation, many people responded by saying, "Well, it is very simple, Jews are smart, so it is not surprising that Israel has innovative thinking." However, associating the success of Israel with a stereotype further blurs the situation instead of clarifying it. In general, the idea of ​​a unifying Jewish identity, be it genetic or cultural, seems at least suitable for a nation that, albeit small, is among the most heterogeneous nations in the world. The small population of Israel consists of seventy different nationalities. A Jewish refugee from Iraq and a Jewish immigrant from Poland or Ethiopia do not have a common element such as language, education, culture and history, at least not in the last two millennia. Irish economist David Makuiliamz states that "Israel is the opposite of a one-dimensional Jewish state ... It is a monotheistic melting pot of a diaspora, each mosaic piece of which has brought its own culture, language and customs from around the world".
Despite the fact that a common religious scripture and tradition, and a common heritage of persecution are certainly important, in the wake of the establishment of Israel it was not at all certain if a set of non-homogeneous populations would be able to create a functioning state, and it was even less certain whether it would excel, more than any other area, in collective action and innovative practices.
One of the most anticipated meetings in Thessaloniki, on the part of the audience, was the one with the Greek edition of the joint work of Amos Oz and his daughter Fania Oz entitled "Jews and Words" (Kastaniotis Publishing House). It was presented in the presence of the latter of the famous tandem of authors. It begins citing poem "The Jews" by famous Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai: "The Jews are not a historical people/and not even an archaeological people, the Jews/are a geological people with rifts/ and collapse and strata and fiery lava./Their history must be measured/on a different scale." Geological race, this unique metaphor, does not refer exclusively to Jews. It could be true for other nations too. However, it is a clear echo from the thesis of Oz father and daughter regarding Jewish continuity as primarily textual. "Historical", ethnic, genetic Jewry consists of a tradition of rifts and collapses. It is a landscape of a geological disaster," they said. "Could we trace our origin to the Jews of Galilee and the Roman era?" ask the authors. "We could hardly do that. Such a blood mixture, of proselytes but also of enemies, of the emblematic Cossacks, probably runs in our veins. On the other hand, geneticists tell us today that some of our genes have been following us in this ordeal for a long time." Although this fact may sound interesting, it is not among the arguments of their book. Their thesis is that there is a Jewish line of origin and the temporal continuity and sequence of the events that determine the children of Israel can be confirmed. However, the authors write, "the different measurement scale" that defines us "is made of words". This is the issue that they examine in their book, namely the Jewish continuity as primarily textual.

Tags: Thessaloniki Book FairHellenic Foundation for CultureModern Israeli literatureZdravka Mihayova
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