Student Publishes His Road to
sitting next to a window overlooking the lush Carmel region,
26-year-old Lavi Sigman smiles. He had recently sent a copy of his
book to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Sigman, who will graduate with
a dual degree in Law and Psychology in June, co-authored the
Hebrew-language work Shanghai Diamonds and the Road to Wisdom (יהלומי
שנגחי והדרך לתבונה , available from Hashchaf Publishers) with his
Although a big accomplishment, this is not the first time Lavi has
been involved in a book as an undergraduate. In 2001, Lavi edited
his father's volume that had culminated Arie's seven years of social
science and medicine research.
A Haifa native who spent three years serving in an IDF intelligence
unit before beginning his studies, Lavi talked to Focus about his
book, the important things in life, and the reason he doesn't like
to watch television.
Focus: What is Shanghai Diamonds and the Road to Wisdom about?
LS: The book reflects on the life of each and every one of us. It’s
a book that combines my naïve and modern point of view and my
father's life experience and research. The plot begins in an ancient
city and describes the story of young Williar and old Loroshphos,
friends who cross the world in a journey filled with adventures in
order to take the treasured Shanghai Diamonds. On their path, they
learn about justice, respect, war, friendship, love, "good and bad,"
and about will. They also learn about emotion, how to fulfill the
most important desires in life and how to break the walls that
surround us. The book describes a unique perspective on society’s
status today through a story. It is both an allegory of modern life
and a tool kit to cope with the stress and difficulties that emerge
in everyday life.
Focus: Why did you write this book?
LS: The book resulted from my urge to write about things that bother
me, and it combines with my father’s urge to let people see there is
a possibility for change at the social and personal level. What made
us come together is my desire to help people by bringing them to a
new perspective about life—one that shows you another way of coping
with situations and a way to do things without being self-centered.
Focus: How did your life experience shape the book?
LS: As a young Israeli, I grew up in a reality that is characterized
by many problems teenagers and people in other countries haven’t
coped with. This is what made me see a lot of people in bitter need
of help; that’s what drove me to do this book about giving and other
things lacking or deteriorating in Israeli society.
Focus: What is the most important thing people should take from
LS: The book is supposed to help people take a better perspective of
life. It’s a tool that helps you to deal with things that make you
feel bad. But it's not a happiness crème; you don’t put it on your
head and become happy—you need to work and observe yourself. People
are responsible for finding a way to join forces and explore their
intellectual resources to change what is wrong about the world. The
book is supposed to be the infrastructure that you build for
yourself in order to make you feel better. I think the book gives
you the perspective to see your life as what you made of it and the
present as the best time to make a change. What’s more important is
that we had a message in the book of not only doing for yourself but
also doing for others.
Focus: Has the book changed your life?
LS: I think the book is more than a way of thinking; it’s a way of
life. It reflects in my life, in our life, that the most important
thing is, not just talking/writing about changing the world, but to
change the world. Two weeks ago, my father and I donated 100 books
to different charities. Also, my father runs courses free of charge
for people who need help dealing with problems in their lives. That
is what it is all about—doing and not just speaking about a
perspective on life. Doing things that you believe in is a way of
Focus: Is there anything distinctly Jewish about the book?
LS: I think that there are numerous things Jewish about it; what is
unique is the connection between Jewish spirit and mitzvot (good
deeds). Mitzvot are something you give from yourself and then give
to others, along with self-observation and not being self-centered.
Doing for the benefit of society, your family, and yourself is
something that emerges from the book and from the principles of
Focus: What feedback have you received about the book?
LS: The comments from people are already coming in—letters, e-mail,
and phone calls. People say it reminds them of books such as The
Alchemist or Le Petit Prince. Many say that we should translate the
book into English and other languages because the themes are
universal. People say it filled them with energy or helped with
romantic relationships. We are filled with joy to know that the book
has the spirit of something larger; it’s a torch of enlightenment
that is meant to make the life of the individual and society happier
and healthier. The most beautiful thing someone told me was that the
book gave him a method and the energy to change the things that were
difficult in his life. This is the most beautiful thing—it's worth
Focus: Did you receive any negative criticism?
LS: Critics said three main things: the themes may look trivial,
it's naive to think you can change something around you, and the
book's language is too high for common people. Under the
circumstances of this modern environment, I don’t think it's naive
or trivial to fight for the values and things you believe in. Also,
what came out of us is how the book was written; we didn’t try to
make the language better. Many of the people that called us have
responded that it is very readable. In Hebrew we would say, “You eat
it as a snack," meaning you could read the book in a few hours.
Focus: What do you enjoy doing when not writing books?
LS: I enjoy volunteering and I don’t like spending my time on things
without value, like resting too much. I like to do things that are
active. I don’t enjoy activities such as watching shallow television
shows or going to the beach to suntan.
Focus: What are your plans after graduation?
LS: I am heading for a Master’s degree in organizational psychology.
I have studied patent law and creativity and want to be involved in
economic entrepreneurship. I am interested in developing technology
that will integrate with social change.
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