Friday, October 19, 2012

The Moshe Feiglin You Never Knew: Part 1

By Tomer Koren

25 Tishrei 5773
Oct. 11, '12

This interview appeared in Hebrew in the Ma'ariv newspaper and NRG website
Pictured: Moshe Feiglin in front of graffiti that says Judaism = Liberty

"From the time that we had a family, we have made it a point to vacation only in Israel. This summer, though, I felt that we had to detach ourselves for a while from what is happening both in our national home and our private home. A dark cloud is currently hovering over them both. So we flew to my wife's family in the US and toured the country for over a month. It was amazing."

"Suddenly, after 50 years of devoting most of my time to public activism, I finally understood. I realized how important it is to have quality time with the family and to create positive family experiences. This month brought me to the deep realization that I am not here forever. I do not know what tomorrow brings and when I will be called to the Heavenly throne, but when that day comes I want to be able to whole-heartedly say to myself that I lived a full life."

These opening sentences, that sound more like a New Age awakening speech, have come out of the mouth of one of the more famous icons of the Right: Moshe Feiglin, who in the last years has peeled away his extremist image to reveal a softer, more liberal and most importantly, more sensitive man.

Feiglin may not admit this, but this softening is the result of personal pain (his son David's accident and his wife Tzippy's Parkinson's disease) and not the result of a more sober view of the political reality. His political doctrine is still clear and crisp (" Abu Mazen is the enemy, the Palestinians want to drive us into the sea") but his tolerance toward all those who represent the opposite of what his principles dictate: seculars, leftists, homosexuals – has never been greater.

The Feiglin family looks like a microcosm of Israeli society. It is the fruit of the two marriages of Feiglin's father. Moshe has two secular sisters who live in Israel's center, one Religious Zionist sister and one ultra-Orthodox sister who live in Jerusalem.

"With a family like that, how can I possibly come out normal?" Feiglin laughs, exposing all his teeth. "It's not a family. It is a crossword puzzle."

You are a religious settler who believes in our rights to the entire Land of Israel. How do your secular relatives accept you?
"Just fine. Where there is love and good will, it is easy to bridge all differences. They come over for meals and we talk about everything in good humor."

Also politics?

"Not that." Once we talked politics and I tried to infect them with my enthusiasm. Over time, I understood that that was a mistake because it causes unnecessary arguments that take away from quality time."

One of his famous relatives is Ayah Zehavi Feiglin, the soloist for the "All the Macho Guys Are With Me" band, who also starred in "A Star is Born." When I ask him what he thinks about his cousin, who became famous for her out of the ordinary appearance, he responds with an embarrassed smile that reveals more than just a pinch of disagreement.

"I like her very much on a personal level. After all, she is my cousin. She is also very famous today. She is so famous that we sometimes joke about who comes out first on Google if you search for "Feiglin." But her music is a different story."

You don't connect to it?

"She has one song that I like very much, but in truth, because of my background, it is difficult for me to connect to her wavelength."

So you didn't vote for her when she appeared on A Star is Born?

"I don't have a television at home, and even if I did, "A Star is Born" is the last program that I would watch. It is sub-culture. The "Big Brother" show is also not anything to be proud of. Those types of shows are an insult to the intelligence of the viewer. They are cynical, exhaust the viewers' emotions and employ cheap manipulations."

Feiglin, born in Haifa, is married and the father of five. He is religious, but he has no problem with opening businesses on Shabbat or with secular burial and "if there was a law requiring men to wear a kippah, I would immediately remove mine."

He is also an enthusiastic supporter of legalization of light drugs. "I am against the use of light drugs, but I don't think that what a person does in the privacy of his own home; what he eats and what he smokes – is the state's business. Legalization of cannabis will get the underworld out of the picture and will transform tens of thousands of Israelis from criminals to law abiding citizens.

Would you define yourself as a liberal?

"I am not crazy about that definition. I believe in the right of every person to live his life according to his beliefs, as long as he is not harming his environment or demanding government funding at the expense of others. I can tell you that I did not like the attack on the ultra-Orthodox who wanted to have gender separation on their buses. Why should anybody mix in with what they do in their own neighborhoods?"

But it is discrimination against women.

"Discrimination against women is unacceptable, but I do not believe that the state should get involved in the issue. I think that Israel should be divided into districts and that every community should decide how it is going to conduct its public affairs. Interfering makes things worse. The fact is that when the residents of Ramat Aviv in northern Tel Aviv were asked if they wanted the local mall open on Shabbat, the overwhelming majority said no. It is safe to assume that if the closure had been coerced upon them, they would have drafted all their resources to ensure that it would open."

"The media condemn Bnei Brak for discriminating against women, justifiably. But there are also problems in Tel Aviv. I say that Bnei Brak is a city without women, but that Tel Aviv is a city without men."

"Tel Aviv is a city of homosexuals and single mothers; it is a city in which being a man is not legitimate. If you are a straight man in Tel Aviv, you almost feel the need to apologize. It is no accident that the leaders of the social justice movement are women. Tel Aviv symbolizes the undermining of the institution of family in Israel. A sick generation of children of single mothers has grown up there. They have no father, so they think that Bibi is their father and demand that he provide them with work."

So you oppose the social protest movement?

That is not what I am saying. The basis of the protest is right and their claims are true. I think that the State should give young couples and army veterans free land. As soon as the price of housing is lowered, the cost of living will be lower. Nonetheless, I think that the root of the social protest is elsewhere. The real reason for the protest is the increase of father-less families. The father is the basis of the family. As soon as the father is out of the picture, it is no longer a family."

What do you think about Dafni Lief?

"She is a very impressive person. I led 'Zo Artzeinu' and I know how hard it is to bring people out to the streets. She succeeded in bringing out hundreds of thousands, which is no small feat. But the protest movement evaporated because it is not about the government, but about people's choice to live outside the classic family framework."

To be continued.

1 comment:

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