EXCLUSIVE: Dividing Israel into two? Author who fictionalized scenario years ago discusses movement to do exactly that

Author Gila Green, whose 2013 novel was based on a fictional division of the State of Israel into two separate entities – one religous and one secular – discussed with World Israel News the uncanny situation now, in which some activists are promoting exactly that.

By Atara Beck, World Israel News

It’s not a new idea, but most recently, since the Israeli coalition put into law the controversial “reasonableness” bill, some activists are promoting the the idea of splitting the State of Israel into two separate states.

Over the past several months, the country has been profoundly divided over the Netanyahu government’s planned judicial reform, with no reconciliation in sight. Hundreds of thousands have been demonstrating against the reforms regularly in the streets, blocking traffic and often causing major disruptions and including dangerous incitement. Thousands of military reservists have reportedly threatened not to continue their IDF service if the reforms pass.

The pro-reform camp also organized two major demonstrations, each including hundreds of thousands of people, demanding the government implement the reforms that were promised ahead of the November 2022 national election.

In an interview with Hebrew-language Maariv last week, Nitzan Amit, founder of the movement to split the country, warned that “we are heading towards the abyss. If we remain in this situation, we will perish.”

Many in the movement are saying the division is based largely on the secular-religious divide.

In 2013, Canadian-Israeli author Gila Green published a work of fiction titled “King of the Class,” in which the State of Israel was divided into two separate entities – one religious state and one secular – due to the deep divide. World Israel News interviewed Green on the subject, now that such a scenario is actually being discussed.

WIN: What was your reaction regarding the news that some people are suggesting the country be divided into two because of the deep divisions? Was your novel somewhat prophetic?

Green: “My reaction, unfortunately, was not one of surprise. This has not just sprung out of nowhere, clearly, or I would not have begun writing this book in 2011 in such a setting. I don’t think my novel was prophetic, rather I am an information junkie (maybe an addict?), and these trends have been apparent for anyone who can read between the lines and perhaps even for those who can read on the surface, but certainly for anyone who can read subtext.

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“It is so common for people to argue that Haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) must learn English/math in order to pay taxes, have high-paying jobs and so on, but it’s always a financial lens; what about the social cohesion lens? How do people imagine societies stay together? By dividing them into smaller and smaller sectors and teaching widely different values and histories and goals without anything to unite them? Do people really think the threat of an external enemy is enough? It’s not, not in the long-term.

“For years, I have been saying that a society that has such separate education systems (Independent, Secular, Arab, Religious Zionist, Haredi, etc. – and there are divisions within those as well) that teach such different histories, values and so on risks a lack of social cohesion on a national level. The idea that it’s totally fine, that everyone will meet up and melt together in the army, is, to say the least, unrealistic.”

‘I chose Lapid specifically’

WIN: Interestingly, you made [Opposition leader] Yair Lapid prime minister of the secular state in your novel, which was written before he entered the political scene. What made you choose him at the time? 

Green: “I read a lot at the time about his ambition to be prime minister and reactions along the lines of how someone with his army record or absence of it has no chance whatsoever…people laughed and mocked, the reaction was very strong..that’s a red flag right there, if someone is looking for trends. I chose Lapid specifically because of the reaction on the part of so many at the time that this was completely “absurd” and he was “dreaming” and this would “never happen” and so on.

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“If you read that enough, you have to start asking why is there such a strong reaction, a very emotional reaction against it. People do not react strongly to things they truly believe will never happen, they react strongly to their fears (not only their fears, also to their loves/passions), and this provoked such a strong, mocking backlash that there had to be more to it.

“I also chose him to make a point, to hold a magnifying glass to peoples’ fears. It was done (I hope) in a subtle way. It was my first novel after years of short story writing, so I am sure today (seven novels later) it would come off differently, but I am content with it the way it is, nonetheless…

“Remember, I had a front row seat to the divisions, as I have been living in Beit Shemesh for 25 years and have seen violence, intimidation and threats between Jews that I was unprepared for when I moved here. I grew up in Ottawa, and several of my earliest memories are of antisemitism, I recall asking my mother why we are called ‘dirty Jews’ in the local park  (we ended up moving out of that neighborhood), and similar incidents continued all the way through my studies at Carleton University. So what I experienced here in Israel, I was unprepared for.”

‘Divisions go back to pre-state Israel’

WIN: There are so many disagreements and so much infighting other than the religious-secular. Do you think that at the end of the day, the religious-secular divide is the basis?

Green: “I rarely think, if ever, that there is any one single reason for anything. An entire situation always has to be looked at, and things happen at different levels (the psychological level, the socio-economic level, etc.). The religious community itself has many disagreements and divisions. Who is the religious community? There are dozens of answers right there, and similarly, the secular community is diverse, people are divided on class lines and so on.

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“Divisions have been created for a long time going all the way back to pre-state Israel and the early years of the state. My father was born a Yemenite Jew in 1936 in Jerusalem and he can get just as passionate today about his treatment on the part of the Ashkenazi Jews –and it’s not flattering–as he did half a century ago. People are still wounded by Oslo, by the Disengagement, there are many wounds on the table, or rather on the streets, right now. Leadership is desperately needed – and a lot of empathy.”

‘Human beings are bad predictors’

WIN: Do you think the division of the state could really happen?

Green: “I think human beings are terribly bad at predictions. They should be weary of them. If you look globally, you see people who never thought Brexit would happen, who vehemently believed that this was self-sabotage and there was no way, and then it happened. Same with Donald Trump–he was never going to win, remember? There are separatist movements all over the place, including in the U.S. and in Canada…

“Then there is the fact that no one actually knows what the world will look like, even in two years, because of the acceleration of AI and inevitable disruption this will cause in a range of occupations.

“I would therefore have to say that it is possible, but at this point, today, I do not think it is probable. If there are no true leaders who can speak to the entire nation to be found, it would be more likely that what happened in countries like South Africa would happen, which is that those with the means leave the country (normally, those from higher socio-economic backgrounds) and those without the means stay.

“But I return to my first point–we are bad predictors.”