top of page
Dr. Ofri Ilany is a historian, journalist, literary critic, and editor. He is the author of In Search of the Hebrew People: Bible and Nation in the German Enlightenment (Indiana University Press, 2018) and writes a weekly column for Haaretz. He is the editor-in-chief of Hzman Hazeh (These Times), a magazine of political thought, culture, and science founded by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.
Title: We Are New People
literary non fiction
Translation rights: World
Audio visual rights: World
Translations: Partial English translation available.
For many people, living in the present feels like living in a foreign country. Those of us who were born in the twentieth century have seen rules change and the texture of existence become unrecognizable within the span of a single lifetime. Forms of life have evaporated; we live under a new sky, on a new earth.
The essays in this collection pay close attention to those transformations, many of which have been unimaginable in the 1970s or even the 1990s. Like the protagonists of a science fiction story, physically transformed after landing on a faraway planet, we must come to grips with having become new humans. Simultaneously, we have to face up to the new monsters that have sprung around us.
From reflections on fandom and Lord of the Rings, to the place of the laundry machine in German culture, to the revival of the Hebrew language, these essays are about culture, politics, ecology, theology, sexuality, technology and more. What unites them is an attempt to identify that new creature which has been fashioned in the womb of our current period.
We Are New People includes several never-before-published essays as well as some which have been adapted from the author’s publications in Haaretz, one of Israel’s leading daily newspapers.
Ilany stands out as one of the most astute cultural critics of our time, a true intellectual who straddles the realms of history and contemporary hot topics. His book, We Are New People, is precisely that: a compilation of numerous columns from recent years—some previously published in a similar version in the Haaretz supplement, while others make their debut—all aimed at diagnosing the present era and comprehending the profound changes we have undergone. In the introduction, he insightfully remarks, “History books attempt to capture the worldview of people from distant times – be it the people of the Middle Ages or the ancient Egyptians. However, even the worldview of the people from the 1980s seems almost unreachable to us. Try watching popular series like Dallas or Soap, and you will encounter people from a different era.”
Ilany generously acknowledges that even intellectual discussions remain entangled in a discourse crafted decades ago. Consequently, he endeavors to frame the discourse around issues pertinent to the ‘new person of the 21st century.” The book's columns, written in the first person, traverse diverse subjects encompassing culture, sexuality, politics, ecology, technology, and more. Ilany effortlessly weaves references to intellectuals such as Herbert Marcuse and Frederic Jameson with contemporary figures like Marie Kondo, Game of Thrones, trending recreation drugs, the real estate market, and climate change. All these references serve to shake off the dust of convention and “gaze upon the new monsters that have emerged around us.
Maya Becker, Haaretz
Forces of nature, household appliances, invasive birds, bespectacled geeks, concerned philosophers, spendthrift hipsters, sandal-wearing settlers, and a myriad of other intriguing creatures come to life within the pages of Ilany’s compelling book, We Are New People . . . it is an endeavor to portray human beings in all their diverse thoughts, habits, and peculiarities, capturing this very moment in time. We are New People firmly establishes Ilany as one of today’s most engaging historians. His texts emanate originality, critical insight, and occasional radical perspectives, all expressed in a confident tone and accessible language.
Elad Bar-Noy, Yedioth Aharonoth
In his exploration of the nascent human experience, Ilany delves into a diverse array of social phenomena, each offering insights into our collective nature. From the unprecedented deep-sea mining to the invasion of myna birds, from viewing newspapers as a humanistic imperative to examining attitudes towards the Temple Mount, and even delving into the metaphysics of air conditioners and deodorants and their societal impact—Ilany leaves no stone unturned in his quest to understand the human condition.
The author’s keen observations often stem from an examination of spaces, giving rise to broad social reflections. This method of observation runs as a common thread through many texts in the collection, perhaps influenced by the author's formative experiences – growing up in a small settlement in the Negev desert as the son of a zoologist, an original researcher. These roots showcase a unique juxtaposition of the concrete with the taxonomic, the apparent phenomena alongside their finely crafted characterizations.
Ido Nitzan, Israel Hayom
Ilany’s essays successfully articulate a new critical existence, where the wandering mind remains receptive to the diverse voices of the surrounding reality, avoiding the imposition of a single narrative to explain the catastrophes of our time.
Ilany seeks to discover the ‘new people,’ emerging from the aftermath of ideological projects that have shaped the country—from Zionists to gays, from socialists to ultra-Orthodox. He encourages them to walk the twilight path between the periphery and the center, cultivating a profound skepticism towards the reality they encounter. By embracing their foreignness as a weapon, they can carve out a new existence.
Dr. Itamar Ben Ami, Haaretz
bottom of page