With various sectors of Israeli society joining the protest movement against Israel’s current government and planned reforms, the Jerusalem Press Club hears from one of the leaders of a group calling for secular Israelis to officially separate from the rest of the population, in this op-ed by Yaniv Magal (originally appeared as a Facebook post in Hebrew).
My name is Yaniv, and I grew up in a religious-Zionist family. My parents were among the first settlers in Samaria. At the age of 19, I stopped being religiously observant.
Perhaps I crossed a line, but in fact I have always lived and felt like I belonged in both worlds. I felt like an ambassador of the demographic from which I came. I explained how things really were, since I believed that secular views of the religious world were riddled with stereotypes.
By profession I’m a writer. The books I wrote on the subject also describe these people with sympathy. Many of my parents’ friends from the settlement in Samaria are my friends on Facebook. They follow my personal and professional life with affection and forbearance, and since my parents have passed on, I continue to communicate with them through their friends. Their reactions to the things I share warms my heart.
My three religious brothers are my best friends, they have always been there for me, at every turbulent juncture I’ve ever known in my life. I am afraid of their reaction, I assume they will block me when they know my secret: Not only am I a member of The Separation Movement, but I’m one of the leaders.
Magal and two of his brothers
Then why am I willing to risk what is so precious to me? I think about my three children, and feel like I have no choice. The past year has uncovered plans that were previously hidden away in the dark: To impose a corrupt, ultra-Orthodox and extremist regime on our country. This government is willing to pay any price for it, even the destruction of the thriving Zionist enterprise – this unique wonder for which so many have given their lives, so that we get to enjoy its fruits.
The idea of solving the current social rift by separation is an extraordinary idea, no doubt. People are having a hard time accepting this. “Insane” or “extreme” are the common adjectives used to describe the Separation Movement, but is it not always hard for people to accept new ideas? We tend to prefer to stick to the familiar routine, even when it is bad for us, and to shy away from change, let alone significant change.
The basic idea makes sense: If you cannot get along, part ways. This case, obviously, is not that simple. We are one people, and this is precisely why we should separate, so that besides political points of view, we can remain connected through everything else that binds us (memorial ceremonies, Jewish holidays, sports teams, etc.) and separated over what sows hatred between us.
A month ago I had a heart attack, a very sudden one, considering that I’m usually healthy, eat responsibly and am physically active. The doctors could not find an explanation. I’m glad I got to the hospital on time. The doctors could not believe I drove myself to the Emergency Room, and once I got there I went into cardiac arrest and found myself in the operating theater.
Luckily for me, I survived this heart attack mostly unscathed, but I do feel that one thing changed in me. Make that two things. Firstly I – a (moderate) right-winger – probably became more leftist by a few percentage points that night, thanks to the Arab doctors who saved my life.
Secondly and most importantly, even though I am 45 years old, and I have many more years to live, this is no longer the sentiment by which I live. I feel like my time here is limited and I must fulfill the most important task of all: Secure my children’s future. To leave them living in a liberal and democratic state, with no religious coercion and full equality for my two daughters.
Therefore, I choose separation. For this, I am willing to pay any price.
Yaniv Magal is a writer and a member of the Separation Movement’s leadership.