Why Israeli Thought Leaders Have Outsized Global Impact

Israel’s leading thinkers and scholars wielded outsized influence across the world

One reason is Judaism’s legacy of formal education. Israel consistently ranks among the most educated countries. OECD statistics show that half of Israeli adults between the ages of 25 and 64 have completed post-secondary education. This is reflected in the high number of doctors, authors, thinkers and Nobel laureates in Israel.

Another reason is Israel’s culture of contrarian thinking – defying “common knowledge” and never seeing anything as impossible.

As Israeli statesman Shimon Peres said, “If one expert says it can’t be done, get another expert.

Technology Thought Leaders

Israel really shines at the intersection of social science and technology. An example of a thinker whose ideas have made an impact in the tech world is behavioral economist Dan Ariely.

Dan Ariely of the Center for Advanced Hindsight. Photo courtesy of Dan Ariely

Ariely, a lecturer at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, has written best-selling books on decision-making that are popular throughout Silicon Valley and the global business community.

Ariely explains our decision-making process and how we believe we have control over our decisions even if factors outside of ourselves affect us. He founded the Advanced Retrospective Centerhas launched several startups and regularly lectures on decision-making, including seven TED talks.

Another popular Israeli thought leader and TED speaker among all of Silicon Valley is Nir Eyal, a bestselling author and lecturer at Stanford. His work focuses on startup-related topics such as how technology shapes our behavior and how professionals can be productive and focused effectively.

His books Hung and Indistractable often appear on tech entrepreneurs’ “to read” lists, and his popular TED Talk on “What Makes Technology So Empowering” has been seen by millions.

Photo by Nir Eyal via Wikimedia Commons

As Eyal reflects on his work, “I was one of the first people to write for a wide audience about the deep psychology of how tech products shape our behavior, and I was the first to spot the ability of technology to change our behavior.”

He adds, “When I started, people thought these tech founders were ‘lucky’, but luck had nothing to do with it, they understood consumer behavior better than we understand ourselves. ourselves…today I don’t have to make that argument.”

Thought Leader Yuval Noah Harari

Israeli academic institutions play a key role in supporting professors and thinkers who impact the world with their ideas.

Even before the founding of the state, Israeli universities set the tone for the development of human capital (due to the lack of natural resources), which was vital for the country’s early survival and was a major driver of success. of the Startup Nation.

The most recent Academic Ranking of World Universities includes three Israeli universities among the top 100 in the world: the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Photo by Yuval Noah Harari by Aleksander Żebrowski via Wikimedia Commons

Hebrew University Professor Yuval Noah Harari is considered one of the most important thinkers today on the state of human civilization and where the world might go.

Harari’s revolutionary book, Sapienson the history of civilization, influenced figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Barack Obama.

He is a leading expert on topics such as the impact of technological disruption on future generations, and his theories have impacted millions of people around the world.

Nobel laureates

The impact of Israeli academia is notable, as the country hosts 13 Nobel laureates in fields such as chemistry, economics, literature and peace. Israel has won more Nobel Prizes per capita than the United States, France and Germany. It has more winners, in real numbers, than India, Spain and China.

Professor Daniel Kahneman. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Professor Daniel Kahneman (along with the late Professor Amos Tversky) is the only Israeli to have won a Nobel Prize in Economics for his theories on decision-making. His New York Times bestseller think fast and slow explains that there are two ways of thinking – the instinctive “fast” way and the logical “slow” way – and why both are important.

The common thread running through the work of these Nobel laureates is a deep desire to understand the human condition. Growing up in Israel, where there has always been an intense struggle for survival, lends itself to the rigors of thoughtful analysis. Unleashing human potential under stress has been a by-product of the struggles its citizens have gone through.

As Eyal notes, “There are a lot of Israelis in behavioral economics, and in the context of modern Jewish history, I believe it goes back to the Holocaust. As young people, we all remember seeing images of crowds mindlessly obeying Hitler’s orders. It was both terrifying and fascinating…and it’s that dual feeling that drives us to make sure people aren’t manipulated like that again.

The teacher of happiness

If there’s a silver lining to how humanity has developed over the years because of these ideas, it’s the lifelong study of happiness.

Professor Tal Ben-Shahar, who has taught at Harvard and IDC (now Reichman University), studies positive psychology and happiness, and the ways people can create meaningful happiness in their lives. He shares through his books and social media concrete steps based on research and modern practices (as well as debunking myths), to help individuals live happier lives.


Initially, what interested me in studying happiness was my own unhappiness,” notes Ben-Shahar.

“I was doing well as an undergrad at Harvard, I was a top athlete, I had a good social life and I was miserable. That’s when I realized that the inside counts more for well-being than the outside, and that’s when I got into psychology.After studying positive psychology and enjoying it, I wanted to share what I learned with the others.

Ben-Shahar also draws inspiration from her background: “I was brought up in an Orthodox family. So many ideas that I encountered through my schooling – at Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers]Torah, Hasidism – find their way into the modern science of happiness.

These thought leaders help us achieve peak performance, better understand ourselves, and make sense of a reality that is becoming increasingly complex.

A rich heritage and a healthy dose of chutzpah and modern technology have helped spread the groundbreaking ideas of these modern philosophers to a global audience.

About Christopher Rodgers

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