The author of Primavera was born and grew up in the United States but has been living in continental Europe for the last 20 years. He studied biology and chemistry at university but, while he has never stopped loving science, he began to wish even before he graduated that he'd chosen philosophy or literature instead. He loves the internet, techy gadgets, beautiful cities, mountains, lakes and woods, dinners with a few friends, classical music concerts, and going to the cinema.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Leonardo, Galileo, Newton, Bohr, Einstein, Watson and Crick, Harold Bloom, Sokal and Bricmont.
What are you reading at the moment? > Stalingrad (Antony Beevor), Berlin (Antony Beevor), and Reflections on the Revolution in Europe (Christopher Caldwell).
Who are your cultural heroes? > Tom Wolfe. He has written about the culture of his day with verve, wit, perception, honesty and unmatched virtuosity and originality of language.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Without hesitation and by a mile, War and Peace.
What is your favourite poem? > There are so many great poems, it's hard to choose just one favourite. One that comes to mind just now is 'How the Old Mountains Drip with Sunset' by Emily Dickinson.
What is your favourite movie? > It's between Fargo and The Big Lebowski. Fargo is the purest art; The Big Lebowski is the purest enjoyment.
What is your favourite song? > 'Hatikva'.
Who is your favourite composer? > I know a number of professional musicians and quite a few other people who know a great deal about music, and for such people the greatest composer seems to be invariably either Bach or Beethoven. I have to suppose that their knowledge enables them to see or hear more than I can, and that I am therefore mistaken, but my favourites are nevertheless Mozart and Schubert.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > That there are fundamental principles of democracy, of human rights and of civil liberties that are not culturally dependent and apply universally to all countries, nations, cultures and people.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > The idea, baseless both on the face of it and upon further examination, that no culture can be or is superior to any other.
Who are your political heroes? > Herzl, Gandhi, Ben Gurion, King, Mandela. Also, in a different sort of category and with reservations and caveats, Gorbachev, Kohl, Reagan, and Bush Sr.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > As I'm multinational, Jewish and the husband and father of Israelis, I'll take Israel as 'my country'. The major policy change I'd make would be to not only cease but reverse the settlement of the West Bank. Military occupation would unfortunately need to continue until a reliable peace was made with the Palestinians, but the settlements should never have been built and should be withdrawn.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > It's either: global scarcities of energy, regional scarcities of water, and regional scarcities of food, all exacerbated by climate change. Or: political Islam.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > On the scale of millennia, it's impossible to say. But on a scale of generations, yes, unfortunately, the best of human civilization, which was to be found in Western Europe and North America during the second half of the 20th Century, is now becoming less free and generally less enlightened. Perhaps the future holds an even brighter world, but I doubt it will arrive during the 21st Century.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > Different positions on specific political issues, no problem. Completely different basic political outlook? All I can say is that I would find it extremely difficult, and I'm very glad that my wife's basic political views and my own are very similar.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Kindness or generosity.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Cruelty or meanness.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > All other things being equal: I might well lie to avoid hurting a person's feelings; I would very probably lie to avoid causing or permitting material harm to be done to another person; and I would certainly lie to avoid causing or permitting bodily harm or a grave injustice to be done to another person.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Quod licet jovi non licet bovi.' My father used to say it to me, and now I find myself saying it to my own small children. It's quite useful to a parent, and the Latin lends it a mystique and an authority that preclude its being questioned.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Among activities seemingly much enjoyed by others that I'd find a waste of my time, the first that comes to mind is watching sports on television. Also, I cannot see the point of a bar that is so crowded you can't get comfortable or where the music is so loud that you can't have a conversation.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > I worry for Israel every day.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > I'd like to have a home in Manhattan and another in Jerusalem.
What would your ideal holiday be? > Wherever it was, it would involve lots of lazy mornings sitting with friends in sunny outdoor cafés drinking coffee and reading newspapers, lots of lazy afternoons sitting with friends in sunny outdoor cafés drinking cold drinks and talking, and many lazy evenings of warm, gentle breezes having dinner outside with friends.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > Hiking, reading, sitting in outdoor cafés, having interesting conversations, emailing, blogging.
What talent would you most like to have? > To be able to play the piano.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Gideon Rachmann has a pretty sweet gig with the Financial Times. He gets paid to travel all over the world, be present at exciting global political events, meet and interview high-level people including national leaders, and then write whatever he thinks about it all, for publication in a globally-read paper.
Who are your sporting heroes? > Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Muhammad Ali.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > For my wife and I to share a long life, staying healthy in mind and body right to the end.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > King Abdullah of Jordan, President Mubarak of Egypt and Mahmoud Abbas.
What animal would you most like to be? > If I had to be an animal, then Bagheera in The Jungle Book.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]