Does Jewish History and ‘Chosenness’ Matter?

A popular Israeli author is promoting an atheistic outlook on history, and how little the Jews matter

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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind has made Yuval Noah Harari a household name in Israel. The book purports to record some 70,000 years of the human history, raising the question of whether it is a historical study or a narrative. 

The difference between historical study and narrative is as deep as the ocean. Historical study produces a story about what actually happened. Narrative is a story designed to convince the reader of what should happen. 

Narrative should be regarded as a novel, where the author can play with facts as he or she wishes. More pointedly, narrative is history in the service of ideology. 

The confusion between history and narrative is best demonstrated by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Though this is a novel, the author’s creative use of historical facts has duped millions into believing the book is factual.

Harari was criticized for essentially omitting Jewish history from his “historical” survey, and later explained in an article for the daily Haaretz why he regards Jewish history as marginal at best. His explanation substantiates the notion that A Brief History of Humankind is an ideology-driven narrative seeking to dethrone Israel from its imagined grandiose position as a chosen people.

“Judaism,” Harari writes, “was and still is a tribal, self-absorbed religion that cares much about the fate of a very small people and the history of a very tiny country, and little about the wellbeing of humanity.” The author then laments the fact that students in Israeli public schools are being taught that “Israel is the central axis of human history.” 

Even the loftiest expression of Jewish morality as contained in the Ten Commandments is anything but original. “We know today,” asserts Harari, that “moral rules are not specifically unique to homo sapiens, they are operative also among other social animals such as wolves, dolphins and monkeys.”

Furthermore, according to Harari, “many of the biblical rules are nothing more than a copy of accepted norms in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Canaan that have existed hundreds and thousands of years before the kingdoms of Israel and Judea.” Important as it may be, “initially Jewish morality was developed as a narrow-minded, tribal kind of morality, and to a large extent remains so until today.”

Having deprived Judaism of any intrinsic value, Harari is careful to clarify that he is no anti-Semite. Quite the contrary, in his estimation. Delivering a final blow in his atheistic diatribe, Harari declares that the true “anti-Semites [are those] who attribute to Judaism a unique importance.” 

In this magnificent curveball, Harari is hoping to turn the tables in such a way as to make faithful Jews and Christians into the real anti-Semites.

Though Harari himself is anything but unique in manipulating history to demolish faith, his popularity makes him a powerful agent of change that if not challenged properly could bring an end to the Jewish people and the Jewish state. 

Needless to say, from the faithful’s point of view, Harari’s dream of putting an end to the notion of a “chosen people” will cause nothing but global calamity. Those who believe that for there to be a creation there must be a creator, are also inclined to believe that the creator’s promise to bless all the people of the earth through the seed of Abraham is far more realistic than Harari’s fantastic novel.


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