Lev Topor

The ‘hipardut’ rift would be a national disaster

Separating secular and religious Jews into different countries would undermine the very essence of Judaism - and the Zionist dream
Bandage on concrete surface crack.(Unsplash)
Bandage on concrete surface crack.(Unsplash)

The essence of Israel is its Jewishness. What would happen, then, if this essence were to fade away? After the Second World War and the Holocaust – the attempt to destroy Jews, Judaism, and the Jewish spirit – the Jewish people have managed to establish their own sovereign state, as equals among other nations and people. However, this Jewish establishment is not out of the danger zone yet, approximately 75 years afterwards. Zionism and a permanent Jewish state must continue the struggle for independence, sovereignty, and recognition.

During recent months, at the heat of the Israeli national debate about the Judicial reform, a peculiar idea has been brought to the attention of the people. The idea of hipardut – separation. The separation movement, which by its social media presence has over 44,000 followers, is the idea and call to separate the Jews, and Israel, either into two separate states or into two separate federations under one federal state. According to its website, and one of its promoters, the goal of the Hipardut movement is to separate Israel and Israeli citizens, mainly Jews, into a secular state (or federation) — “New Israel” — and a religious state — “Judea.” One state would allow public transport on Sabbath and the other would not; one would institutionalize Judaism, and the other would not.

The website of the Hipardut movement, its Facebook page, and its WhatsApp channel include initial explanations and an imaginary timeframe for execution. There, the movement’s promoters explain how the separation would be made and how state related issues would be dealt with, mainly in secular “New Israel” — issues like regime type, a constitution, security, the legal system, separation of religion and state, education, health, and more. What would happen with such issues in “Judea”? There are no details about this, however, while reading the material, one is under the impression that “Judea” can do whatever it, or they, want.

Israeli minorities like Israeli Arabs, Druze, and others, and also Arabs from the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip, are not mentioned. What would the future, under such separation, hold for them? Would they live in “New Israel,” and enjoy the extreme liberalism to live under their own conservative cultures, or would they live in “Judea” and have some similar religious arrangements? As for a Palestinian state, which may or may not be legitimate, it seems the promoters of the Hipardut movement disregarded that entirely. Even if a Palestinian state were out of the question, and Palestinian Emirates would emerge, where would those emirates fit in?

The Hipardut movement seems to disregard basic survey methodologies. For instance, when one plans a survey, one needs to ask questions, rather than provide answers. When the Hipardut movement differentiates between secular and religious Jews, it seems to forget that these terms do not entirely apply, nor represent, Israeli society, as by such definitions — secular vs. religious — the vast majority of Israeli Jews are religious.

But, since they are not asking question and just provide answers upfront, the promoters of the movement assume most of those who live in Tel Aviv or Herzliya are secular. Most celebrate the major Jewish holidays, most mention, in some way or another, the Sabbath, and most, if asked, do believe in Mr. G. Who should live in the secular and liberal state then? Muslim and Christian Arab citizens, who also do not fit into the category of “secular”? Them and a few secular Jews? Thus, “New Israel” would not remain with such a name for long. In such a scenario, it is entirely the right of the majority to change the name of the new state and, maybe, to change its essence. What would remain then, for the Jews? Judea? Surrounded by more hostile, but “enlightened and progressive” states? But the “New Israelites” have not asked for Judea, have they?

Liberal and secular “New Israelites” do occasionally forget the answer to the question of “who is a Jew?” A Jew is somebody who was born to a Jewish mother or one who believes in Judaism and chose to convert. Thus, secular Jews in “New Israel” would still be Jews, even if they did not wish to be referred as such. And, in case disasters take place and dictators rise, we can only imagine the non-acceptance of Jews by others in the Middle East or elsewhere.

These secular people would be used as scapegoats no less than their brothers and sisters from Judea. Renouncing Judaism did not work during the Inquisition period, not did it work during the 1930s and 1940s in Germany. It would not work in the near future either. This is true for Israel, the Middle East, Europe, the United States, and elsewhere. But such “New Israel” might sound appealing to one such secular progressive liberal while sitting at a café in Tel Aviv, feeling part of the enlightenment, just miles from “ignorant and poor” Gaza, Lebanon, Bnei Brak, or Jerusalem.

The famous phrase, “two Jews, three opinions,” is a thing to aspire for. That is, the few that fantasize about “New Israel” must remember that pluralism and acceptance of the other are also vital values of liberal democracies and, that the essence of Israel is its Jewishness. With no Jewish essence, what difference does it make for one to live in foreign lands or in a generic state? What would be the spirit and value of such state, liberalism? While not accepting more conservative parties? Those seeking progress and European-style enlightenment, I am afraid, would encounter more difficulties than imagined, while attempting to destroy the Zionist dream.

It is odd that, for those who perceive themselves as enlightened and progressive, the ability to take a public bus on a Sabbath is more important than to bequeath to their offspring and successors a Jewish land.

About the Author
Dr. Lev Topor is the co-author (w/ Prof. Jonathan Fox) of 'Why Do People Discriminate Against Jews?' Published by Oxford University Press in 2021 and the author of 'Phishing for Nazis: Conspiracies, Anonymous Communications and White Supremacy Networks on the Dark Web' Published by Routledge in 2023. Lev publishes scholarly works and reports on the topic of antisemitism, anti-Zionism, racism and cyber. Previously, Dr. Topor was a research fellow in ISGAP, in the Woolf Institute (Cambridge), in the CCLP (Haifa University) and in The International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem (Jerusalem).
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