Do You Support West Bank Annexation? Gay Marriage? Young Israelis Explain Their Thinking

Our special interactive project was designed to see how young Israelis measure up to their peers abroad and to their parents. Here’s what we learned

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Young voters collage
Credit: Emil Salman, Nir Keidar
Judy Maltz
Judy Maltz

>> Meet the Generation That Holds the Key to Israel's Future: Read the full story

Danielle Fenner
Age: 19 

Danielle FennerCredit: Emil Salman

Danielle was born and raised in Efrat, a settlement in the West Bank (which she prefers to call Judea and Samaria). Living there, she says, is very important to her. This year, for the first time in her life, she is living away from home, on Moshav Ein Yahav in the Arava Desert, where she is participating in a pre-military leadership training program. Fenner already knows she will be serving in the Intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces when she completes the program. She and her twin sister are the youngest of five children. Their dad is originally from New York and their mom from Panama. Fenner loves running and playing guitar and ukulele.

How do you identify politically (right, left or center)?

It’s a lot more complicated than right, left and center. I don’t think it’s possible to really define these terms. Still, I tend to say that I’m somewhere between right and center. We talk about this a lot on my gap-year program, and each time, we reach the conclusion that ultimately we all want the same things – we all want to live in security, and we all want peace. The question is, how do we obtain these things and what comes first. 

How do you identify religiously, if at all?

As religious.

Who did you vote for in the two rounds of elections in 2019?

In the first, I voted for Hayamin Hehadash, and in the second for Yamina [both are religious, right-wing parties].

Who do you plan to vote for in the third round on March 2?

I haven’t decided yet, but I think it’s just crazy that we’re having another election. 

Did you vote for the same party as your parents?

No. I’m more to the right.

Have you attended any demonstration in the past year  and if so, for or against what?

I wasn’t able to go because I had no way of getting there, but I had wanted to go to the demonstration they had at the Knesset a few months ago to try to prevent a third election. 

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

In Israel, for sure. I don’t know if I’ll be married yet, but probably, and maybe I’ll be a mom by then. I’d like to get a job with the police. Lately, I’ve become really interested in cases of missing people, and I’d love to be able to find work solving cases like these.

Do you see your future in Israel?

Yes. 

How do you most identify?

As Israeli and Jewish.

What do you consider to be the most burning political or social issue facing Israel today?

The fact that we’re having so many elections, although maybe that’s not so much of an issue anymore. So I guess I’d say it’s all the divisions in society that bother me most. 

Do you believe Israel has a special obligation to take in refugees and asylum seekers?

I want to say yes, because this is something that as Jews we understand and have experienced. On the other hand, it’s complicated because it all depends on how equipped we are as a nation to take in these people. But in principle, my answer is yes. 

Do you believe public buses should operate in Israel on Shabbat?

Yes, but not everywhere. Let’s just say that there’s no reason that in places where it doesn’t bother people, there shouldn’t be buses on Shabbat.

Do you believe members of the LGBTQ community deserve full rights?

Yes.

Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in other words, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel?

I don’t think it would work. I don’t think they [the Palestinians] would suffice with Judea and Samaria. They don’t want us to be here. If we could definitely guarantee that something like this could bring peace, then for sure. I’d say yes in two seconds. But I think they’ll start with Judea and Samaria, and then they’ll demand the rest of Israel.

Do you support Israeli annexation of the West Bank? 

I do support the annexation of Judea and Samaria. I was born and grew up in Efrat. These lands are an inseparable part of the Land of Israel. Their location also protects Jerusalem. In my opinion, there must be Jewish settlement here. But it doesn’t have to be exclusively Jewish. We live in close proximity to Palestinians. That’s the reality. We are actually neighbors, but for the most part we don’t have neighborly relations. We don’t know the other side well, and they don’t know us. I think that if we made an effort to have better neighborly relations – both us and them – and saw this as something important, it would be a starting point for a process. Some of them are taught to be against us, against the Jews. When they are raised and educated that Jews are bad, then they want to harm Jews, and this doesn’t allow for any sort of discourse. It causes opposition and the deepest hate possible. There’s room for improvement on our side as well, because we also suffer from preconceptions. So I know it’s not simple – in fact, much more complicated than this, and that there won’t always be someone to talk to on the other side. Terrorists and terror attacks are something we’ve gotten used to, and I’m not sure it’s something that can be changed entirely.

Are you familiar with the nation-state law, and if so, what’s your position on it?

I am. On the one hand, we need a state that will be defined as ours – assuming that we want to preserve our heritage and our nation. On the other hand, I understand why non-Jews in this country would feel hurt by this law. I don’t understand enough about it, though, to go into too much detail.

Fadi Maklada
Age: 25

Fadi MakladaCredit: Nir Keidar

Fadi was born and raised in Daliat al-Carmel, the largest Druze town in Israel. A first year law student at the University of Haifa, he served in Israeli intelligence, reaching the rank of captain. During his military service, he spent two years living in a hip neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Maklada is the youngest of three children and lives on his own today in Daliat al-Carmel, in a separate housing unit that belongs to the family.

How do you identify politically (right, left or center)?

Center.

How do you identify religiously, if at all?

That’s a difficult question for me because even secularists among the Druze lead traditional lifestyles. I happen to live a very secular life, but at the same time I refer to myself as Druze, which is a religion. In that way, I’m very different from Israeli Jews who call themselves secular.

Who did you vote for in the two rounds of elections in 2019?

I’d rather not say because I was in the army during those elections. 

Who do you plan to vote for in the third round on March 2?

I haven’t yet decided.

Did you vote for the same party as your parents?

Yes. 

Have you attended any demonstration in the past year  and if so, for or against what?

Not in the past year. The last demonstration I participated in was the one against the nation-state law [in August 2018]. As an officer in the military, which I was for most of the past year, I’m not supposed to participate in demonstrations. 

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I really don’t know, but I hope to be working as a lawyer and developing in that direction.

Do you see your future in Israel?

Good question. It depends on lots of things. As a matter of principle, the Druze never abandon the land they live on, no matter what. But living with the new Israeli DNA is very challenging for me. There’s no doubt that when I look ahead five or 10 years, I feel threatened ... [and it] makes me think about whether I really want to stay here and raise my children here. It will all depend on which direction the country takes, and to me it looks like it’s moving in a dangerous direction.

How do you identify most?

I think I’m a sort of hybrid. Living in Tel Aviv helped shape my identity, but so does being a member of the Druze community. I love listening to Arabic music, for example, but my weekend wouldn’t be the weekend without reading the Haaretz magazine. 

What do you consider to be the most burning political or social issue facing Israel today?

I’d say the lack of civility in political discourse and the threat to the rule of law. We’ve always taken pride in being the only democracy in the region, and the rule of law was once considered the holy of holies in this country. But these days, I have a harder and harder time explaining how Israel is different from other regimes in the area 

Do you believe Israel has a special obligation to take in refugees and asylum seekers?

I don’t know. If we do, then it has to be regulated. If we just start taking in everyone who wants to come here, it can blow up in our faces. I say that as someone who lived in Tel Aviv and saw the situation in the southern part of the city [where many African asylum seekers live.] It’s not pleasant.

Do we have an obligation? For sure, to those who really need help. Morally, the Jewish people can’t turn their backs on those in need of help – but I don’t think it has to come at the expense of those living here. We need to strike the right balance. 

Do you believe public buses should operate in Israel on Shabbat?

I think that everything being done to promote public transportation on Shabbat is welcome. I think most people want it, and it’s the right thing to do. I am concerned, though, about the rights of those who, as a result, will need to work on Shabbat. But I think the overall public interest takes precedence.

Do you believe members of the LGBTQ community deserve full rights?

Yes. This is part of what being a democracy is about. Democracy isn’t only about having the right to vote. It’s many things, among them granting equal rights to minority groups, which includes the LGBTQ community. To me, this is something so elementary that we probably wouldn’t even be discussing it were it not for the fact that the religious establishment is so powerful here. 

Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in other words, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel?

I think there needs to be some sort of Palestinian autonomy, but it needs to be limited, and it requires considerable thought. I’m worried about the morality of the current situation [the occupation], but I’m also aware of our security challenges. Whatever change comes, people need to know that it won’t take place overnight. 

Do you support Israeli annexation of the West Bank?

It seems that unilateral steps are inevitable. The Palestinian Authority has proven itself to be a consistent rebuffer of peace initiatives, and to my regret, as well as to theirs, the rules of the game are changing. If in the past they didn’t want to participate in the game, then there would be no game. Today, though, things are different, and regretfully they didn’t have the sense to understand this and clearly didn’t see what was coming. 

Are you familiar with the nation-state law, and if so what’s your position on it?

People have tried to reassure me by saying that, number one, it changes nothing in my life, and number two, it’s simply declarative and has no legal standing. I totally reject these claims. Once you say, as this law does, that Jewish settlement is a supreme value, you need to ask then what it takes precedence over. Does it take precedence over human dignity, for example? Does it take precedence over the land rights of others who live here who aren’t Jews? 

Amit Shiri
Age: 23 

Amit ShiriCredit: Nir Keidar

Amit works as a makeup artist by day and a cocktail waitress at night, while taking courses in informal education. A former commander in Caracal (the first mixed-sex battalion in the IDF), “Shiri” – as she is better known among her friends – is the younger of two sisters. Both her parents, who are of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern or North African) origin, were born in Israel as well. Shiri currently lives with her boyfriend in the Negev capital of Be’er Sheva, where she was born and raised.

How do you identify politically (right, left or center)?

Center.

How do you identify religiously, if at all?

I’m secular. Although I do celebrate the holidays, I don’t really observe the mitzvahs.

Who did you vote for in the two rounds of elections in 2019?

I voted for Kahol Lavan in both rounds, though in the previous election, I voted Labor.

Who do you plan to vote for in the third round on March 2?

Also Kahol Lavan. 

Did you vote for the same party as your parents?

I’m not sure who they voted for in the end. I think my dad voted Kahol Lavan, and I think I was able to persuade my mom to as well. 

Have you attended any demonstration in the past year  and if so, for or against what?

No. 

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I hope to be self-employed as a makeup artist or doing something in informal education. 

Do you see your future in Israel?

Yes, though if I got a nice offer from abroad I don’t think I’d have a problem leaving. 

How do you most identify?

As an Israeli.

What do you consider to be the most burning political or social issue facing Israel today?

The high cost-of-living, especially housing prices. I have less interest in politics because of the whole mess we’re in with this government.

Do you believe Israel has a special responsibility to take in refugees and asylum seekers?

Refugees, yes, but not work migrants. Only people whose lives are under threat. 

Do you believe public buses should operate in Israel on Shabbat?

Yes. 

Do you believe members of the LGBTQ community deserve full rights?

Yes. 

Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in other words, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel?

If the Palestinians would be ruled by a normal government, rather than by terrorists, then of course. 

Do you support Israeli annexation of the West Bank?

I think we need to annex the West Bank. They [the Palestinians] are never satisfied, no matter how much land we’ve already given up. They continue to attack us, and that’s why I believe we need to act from a position of strength.

Are you familiar with the nation-state law, and if so what’s your position on it?

I agree with it on the whole, but I think there need to be some changes in it. After all, we’re not in the same situation we were many years ago, when Jews had nowhere to go. 

Bar Elmakias
Age: 24

Bar ElmakiasCredit: Nir Keidar

Bar has lived his entire life on Kibbutz Hahotrim in northern Israel, with no plans to ever leave. Aside from his job as a personal trainer, he supervises exercise classes at a nearby boarding school and occasionally models for sporting attire companies. His parents are both Israeli-born – his dad from the northern border town of Kiryat Shmona and his mom from tony Ramat Hasharon. Elmakias, the middle child of three, heads a special committee on his kibbutz that represents young members. He lives in his own apartment on the kibbutz and is currently enrolled in a course that provides training in running small communities. In his spare time, he plays guitar and surfs. Elmakias is a veteran of the IDF’s Paratroopers Brigade’s special forces unit. 

How do you identify politically (right, left or center)? 

Center-right.

How do you identify religiously, if at all?

As secular.

Who did you vote for in the two rounds of elections in 2019?

Kahol Lavan in both.

Who do you plan to vote for in the third round on March 2?

Kahol Lavan.

Did you vote for the same party as your parents?

Not in the first election, but yes in the second.

Have you attended any demonstration in the past year  and if so, for or against what?

No.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I’m planning to study sports and nutrition, so that I can set up my own wellness business. I also hope to become more involved in running the kibbutz, because I love this place very much. 

Do you see your future in Israel?

Without a doubt. I definitely don’t see myself leaving this country.

How do you most identify?

As Jewish.

What do you consider to be the most burning political or social issue facing Israel today?

For me, there are two. One is the growing racism in the country – against Ethiopians, against Arabs and against Mizrahi Jews. The other is the discrimination against those who are not considered as Jewish as I am. I have a friend like that, whose mom isn’t Jewish, and as a result,he doesn’t get the same benefits as me. 

Do you believe Israel has a special obligation to take in refugees and asylum seekers?

Every Jew who wants to move here, we must take in. As for those who aren’t Jewish, if there’s room for them in the country, then no problem – as long as they go through some sort of screening process. Just like on the kibbutz. Not just anyone can join a kibbutz; you need to get approved by a committee. 

Do you believe public buses should operate in Israel on Shabbat?

Yes, just not in religious neighborhoods. As a nonobservant person, I believe I have the right to public transportation on Shabbat.

Do you believe members of the LGBTQ community deserve full rights?

Yes. There’s no reason if a guy likes guys or a woman likes women, that makes them any different from me. It’s only because the religious have so much power in this country that they’re not accepted. 

Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in other words, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel?

I believe there has to be a solution, but I don’t think we need to give back land for the Palestinians to have a state. They already have a place where they can set up a state, whether it’s in Gaza or the parts of the West Bank they control now. The problem is we’re not talking to people but to terror organizations, and it’s very hard to reach an agreement with terror organizations. 

Do you support Israeli annexation of the West Bank?

Yes.

Are you familiar with the nation-state law, and if so what’s your position on it?

I am, I think it needs to exist because we are a Jewish state. But that doesn’t mean that certain changes, to accommodate certain populations, shouldn’t be introduced. I personally have a good friend from the army who is Druze, and, trust me, he contributes more to Israel that most other people here. But he’s not considered Jewish according to this law. So I’d amend it but not eliminate it entirely. 

Itay Elbaum 
Age: 24 

Itay ElbaumCredit: Emil Salman

Itay was born and raised in Jerusalem, where he studied at a prestigious religious high school. After spending a year in the Greater Washington area, serving as a shaliach for an organization affiliated with the religious Mizrahi movement, he is studying his first semester in law at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan. He shares an apartment with friends near the campus. A former madrich (counselor) in the religious Bnei Akiva youth movement, Elbaum is the oldest of four children. His dad is originally from France, and his mom is Israeli-born. To earn money on the side, he leads Segway tours in Jerusalem. 

How do you identify politically?

Center-right.

How do you identify religiously, if at all?

As religious. 

Who did you vote for in the two rounds of elections in 2019?

I was in the United States during the first election, so I couldn’t vote. In September, I voted Yamina. 

Who do you plan to vote for in the third round on March 2?

I have no idea yet.

Did you vote for the same party as your parents?

My parents don’t always vote for the same party, but in general they vote right.

Have you attended any demonstration in the past year  and if so, for or against what?

The closest thing to a demonstration that I attended was the annual AIPAC conference, which I went to as part of my job as a shaliach. 

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I don’t really know. Right now, I’m studying law while doing a master’s degree in political science. So I’d be interested in getting a job in the public sector that would allow me to impact society. 

Do you see your future in Israel?

Yes, without a doubt.

How do you most identify?

As Jewish, I guess.

What do you consider to be the most burning political or social issue facing Israel today?

As I see it, there are three big issues. One, whether we like it or not, security will always be a top issue on the national agenda. Two, our health and welfare systems are in great need of improvement. And three – and this is something that has become particularly obvious in the past year – are the divisions among different groups in Israeli society. In many cases, the problem is that these groups don’t know each other, and something has to be done about that.

Do you believe Israel has a special obligation to take in refugees and asylum seekers?

I think we have to distinguish between refugees and migrants, legal and illegal. They need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. I think it’s impossible to give one general answer to this question.

Do you believe public buses should operate in Israel on Shabbat?

I’m for whatever solution will cause the least amount of hatred and division among people. It’s a complicated question, and I think each place in the country requires a separate solution. It all depends on who lives there.

Do you believe members of the LGBTQ community deserve full rights?

My natural inclination is to say yes, because in democracies there are equal rights for all citizens. At the same time, though, I think this is part of a much more complicated issue concerning the relationship between religion and state – and it needs to be dealt with in that context. It’s part of a much broader discussion.

Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in other words, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel?

I don’t think that’s the solution. Of course I support peace, but I don’t think this is the solution that will bring it. Today, in fact, there is a Palestinian state in Gaza, and we see that it doesn’t really work. 

Do you support Israeli annexation of the West Bank?

It depends on the actual ramifications for those who live there, but in principle I support annexation.

Are you familiar with the nation-state law, and if so what’s your position on it?

Yes, of course, I’m a law student. I don’t think this law says anything really new. Zionism, from the very beginning, talked about finding a national home for the Jews, and everything else derives from that. 

Gal Raveh
Age: 18

Gal RavehCredit: Nir Keidar

Gal is a third-generation Tel Avivian on her mom’s side. A graduate of Ironi Alef, a high school that specializes in the arts, she participated in numerous theater programs while growing up. This year, before joining the army, Raveh is enrolled in a voluntary service program that focuses on spoken word poetry. The program is based in the southern port city of Ashdod, where she lives in an urban commune. The elder of two daughters, Raveh is slated to spend her military service in the IDF spokesperson’s unit.

How do you identify politically (right, left or center)?

Left.

How do you identify religiously, if at all?

I’d say I’m secular, but we also follow Jewish traditions at home. 

Who did you vote for in the two rounds of elections in 2019?

I was too young to vote in either of them. I missed the second election by three days, but probably would have voted for Meretz or whatever it’s called now.

Who do you plan to vote for in the third round on March 2?

I assume Meretz [the left-wing Zionist party], or whatever it’s part of. 

Did you vote for the same party as your parents?

One of my parents voted Labor, but in general they also vote left.

Have you attended any demonstration in the past year  and if so, for or against what?

I live between Rabin Square and Habima Square, so there are always demonstrations going on right under my house, which I have to pass through to get wherever I need to go. The only one I actively participated in was the demonstration protesting the discrimination of gay male couples in the surrogacy law.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I want to be doing something in theater. Hopefully, I’ll be working as a director.

Do you see your future in Israel?

Yes.

How do you most identify?

I guess as an artist, but that sounds pretty pompous. As an Israeli, then.

What do you consider to be the most burning political or social issue facing Israel today?

What really bothers me is the climate crisis, but it’s not an Israeli problem specifically. I’m also really troubled by the fact that there’s no functioning government in the country and that our prime minister has been indicted. 

Do you believe Israel has a special obligation to take in refugees and asylum seekers?

I don’t think we have a special obligation. I’m not even sure we have an obligation at all, but we definitely know what it feels like for these people because we were also in that position. To ignore it is to bury our heads in the sand. If they would have asked Americans this question during the Holocaust, we know what answer we would have wanted to hear from them.

Do you believe public buses should operate in Israel on Shabbat?

I don’t know. In principle, yes, but maybe in a different format from the rest of the week. Even for secular Israelis, there’s something nice about having one day that’s different. Maybe the best way to do it is the way it’s being done in Tel Aviv [where a limited number of bus lines have begun operating on Shabbat in recent months], which is very cool because people do need to be able to get around.

Do you believe members of the LGBTQ community deserve full rights?

Absolutely. No question about it. My partner is a woman, and I’d be happy for us to have full rights. 

Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in other words, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel?

It’s a complicated question. There’s not a yes-or-no answer. I don’t think it would be wise to create a Palestinian state that would be our enemy, because then we’d just continue fighting. But I do think it’s something that needs to be considered. And if we can change the rhetoric from who was here first to which of us needs what, that would be a step in the right direction.

Do you support Israeli annexation of the West Bank?

No.

Are you familiar with the nation-state law, and if so what’s your position on it?

Yes, and I think it has value, but it’s not sufficient. Having a Jewish state is nice and important, and I don’t object to it, but we’re also a democracy by definition, and to pass a law that ignores that in its wording is troubling. When you have a law that talks about Jews only, what does that mean for those who aren’t Jews? Are they not part of our democracy as well?

Yosef Getaon
Age: 23

Yosef GetaonCredit: Nir Keidar

Yosef was born and raised in Haifa, where he works today as a security guard at a telecom company. His parents immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia, and he is the middle child of three. Getaon served as a combat soldier in the Nahal Brigade and plans to begin studying for his bachelor’s degree in biology next year. He currently lives at home with his parents.

How do you identify politically (right, left or center)?

Left.

How do you identify religiously, if at all?

As traditional.

Who did you vote for in the two rounds of elections in 2019?

In April I voted for Labor, and in September for Kahol Lavan.

Who do you plan to vote for in the third round on March 2?

Kahol Lavan.

Did you vote for the same party as your parents?

Not at all – they’re more to the right. 

Have you attended any demonstration in the past year  and if so, for or against what?

I attended demonstrations protesting police brutality against Ethiopian Israelis.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Married, with my own home, working as a biologist in a laboratory. 

Do you see your future in Israel?

It’s complicated, but yes.

How do you most identify?

As an Israeli.

What do you consider to be the most burning political or social issue facing Israel today?

Widening socioeconomic gaps.

Do you believe Israel has a special obligation to take in refugees and asylum seekers?

Yes.

Do you believe public buses should operate in Israel on Shabbat?

Yes.

Do you believe members of the LGBTQ community deserve full rights?

Yes.

Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in other words, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel?

I don’t. I believe we need to remain in the territories because there are terror groups that have taken control there. And in the past, every time we’ve evacuated an area, radical Islamic groups have moved in. I fear that the more sovereignty we give them [the Palestinians], the more they will use it against us.

Do you support Israeli annexation of the West Bank?

Definitely not. It would mean an end to the Jewish state.

Are you familiar with the nation-state law, and if so what’s your position on it?

I know the law. I don’t support it. To my mind, it discriminates against groups in society that are not Jewish, and I can’t bring myself to support something like that. 

Tali Hayoun 
Age: 18

Tali HayounCredit: Emil Salman

Tali was born and raised in Modi’in Ilit, an ultra-Orthodox community located just over the Green Line (Israel’s internationally recognized border). This year, she began her studies at a post-high school seminary for women in Jerusalem. She also works as a makeup artist at a cosmetics store. The oldest of four children, Hayoun commutes to Jerusalem every day from her home in Modi’in Ilit. She is exempt from serving in the army because she is ultra-Orthodox.

How do you identify politically (right, left or center)?

Center.

How do you identify religiously, if at all?

As a modern-ultra-Orthodox woman.

Who did you vote for in the two rounds of elections in 2019?

I didn’t vote. The first election fell the day before my 18th birthday, so I wasn’t eligible, and I was out of the country for the second election. 

Who do you plan to vote for in the third round on March 2?

I haven’t decided yet, but I would like to have representatives in the Knesset who share my religious values and consider keeping Shabbat important. 

Did you vote for the same party as your parents?

[Not relevant, since she didn’t vote yet.]

Have you attended any demonstration in the past year  and if so, for or against what?

No – I don’t like protests, especially when it involves blocking roads. I don’t think people have to be made to suffer because of my personal beliefs.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Please God, married with children. I would also love to be working as an event planner, which is something I’m studying right now at the seminary.

Do you see your future in Israel?

Yes. Of course. 

How do you most identify?

I worship God, and I’m an Israeli. 

What do you consider to be the most burning political or social issue facing Israel today?

Getting a government elected that will show some respect for all the different groups in society.

Do you believe Israel has a special obligation to take in refugees and asylum seekers?

If they’re Jewish, for sure. I’d like to be able to say that we should let in everyone because of what we went through ourselves, but realistically I don’t know if it’s possible – and the state has to think first and foremost of its own citizens. 

Do you believe public buses should operate in Israel on Shabbat?

No. That doesn’t mean I’m in favor of religious coercion, because I really believe that everyone should be able to live according to his or her beliefs. But public transportation is something public, and when it’s operated on Shabbat, that legitimizes the desecration of Shabbat.

Do you believe members of the LGBTQ community deserve full rights?

For me, that’s a very complicated question because according to the dry halakha – and I’m someone who follows religious law – such relations are prohibited. But at the same time, it’s hard for me to deny someone their basic rights.

Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in other words, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel?

I don’t think it’s a matter of two states. What interests me is my security in my country. The security of the Jews in the Jewish state. If we can feel secure with two states, then fine. But if not, then we have to find another solution that allows us Jews to feel safe.

Do you support Israeli annexation of the West Bank?

Yes.

Are you familiar with the nation-state law, and if so what’s your position on it?

I’m familiar with it, and I agree with it – but that doesn’t mean I believe Arabs, Druze and others who contribute to society don’t deserve equal rights. We shouldn’t forget, though, that this is a Jewish country. 

Alexa Yermolov
Age: 27

Alexa YermolovCredit: Emil Salman

Alexa was born in Russia in the town of Khabarovsk, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of the Chinese border. She immigrated with her family to Israel 20 years ago and grew up in Bat Yam, just south of Tel Aviv. A proud member of what is known as “Generation 1.5” – Russian speakers who immigrated when they were young and grew up in Israel – she graduated last year from the Hebrew University, where she studied history and sociology. The elder of two children, she currently lives in Jerusalem with her boyfriend.

How do you identify politically (right, left or center)?

Left.

How do you identify religiously, if at all?

I’m secular.

Who did you vote for in the two rounds of elections in 2019?

I prefer not to answer that question because I’m not comfortable with how I voted, and I don’t feel that the people I voted for represent me. For me, it was a matter of the least of all evils. 

Who do you plan to vote for in the third round on March 2?

I think I’m going to vote the same as I did in the previous two elections. 

Did you vote for the same party as your parents?

No. not at all. 

Have you attended any demonstration in the past year  and if so, for or against what?

I attended a demonstration to protest the outsourcing of cleaning staff at the university. 

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I have no idea. I didn’t really study a profession, so I think I’ll probably just roll from one thing to the next without too much planning.

Do you see your future in Israel?

Yes. For sure. 

How do you most identify?

As a Russian-speaking Israeli.

What do you consider to be the most burning political or social issue facing Israel today?

It seems to change every month, but in general I’d say it’s the growing socioeconomic gaps. It bothers me that that there are so many children in this country who don’t have equal opportunities. 

Do you believe Israel has a special obligation to take in refugees and asylum seekers?

So long as the situation permits it, I believe we do have this obligation. But it has to be done in an organized and responsible fashion. I just wish there was someone doing something about this. 

Do you believe public buses should operate in Israel on Shabbat?

Most definitely. Because of the lack of public transportation, many people who don’t have their own cars in this country are forced to throw away money on taxis on the weekend. As a kid growing up in Bat Yam, I really suffered because my family didn’t have a car. When I’d want to go visit friends on Shabbat, I’d have to ask them if it was OK that I spent the entire weekend at their place because I had no other way of getting there once Shabbat started. It made me feel pretty uncomfortable at times.

Do you believe members of the LGBTQ community deserve full rights?

For sure. I see no reason why not.

Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in other words, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel?

I have lots of thoughts on the topic. On the one hand, yes, but on the other, the idea frightens me because if Israel isn’t in control of the area, we could become more vulnerable to attacks. Then again, I’m aware that there are other countries in the region we live with peacefully, even though we don’t rule over them.

Do you support Israeli annexation of the West Bank?

I definitely don’t support annexation of the entire West Bank, but I support a peace agreement that would include annexing part of Area C [the area of the West Bank in which the settlements are located and which is under total Israeli control]. In other words, I don’t think we need to evacuate massive settlement blocs in the territories such as Ariel. On the other hand, I don’t see why we need to hold onto other parts of Area C where Palestinians live or that are mainly empty military zones. I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other about annexation, so long as human rights are safeguarded.

Are you familiar with the nation-state law, and if so what’s your position on it?

I’m aware of it, and it frightens me because it basically gives Israel the ability to say that certain groups are not a fundamental part of our society. Israel’s chief rabbi recently said that immigrants from Russia like me don’t belong here. So even though this law doesn’t apply to me directly, I find it to be very problematic. 

Nour Khlaily
Age: 19

Nour (who asked not to be photographed for this project) was born and raised in Kafr Manda, an Arab town in the Lower Galilee. The fourth of five children, she began studying economics and accounting at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev this year. She shares an apartment with several other students in Be’er Sheva, not far from the campus, but says she finds the Negev city quite boring. Before attending university, she was active in Ajiyal, an Arab youth movement that works closely with Hashomer Hatzair, the Zionist-socialist youth movement. Since she began her university studies, Khlaily, a Muslim Arab, has little time for much else. But when she has a few hours to spare, she says she loves spending them at the movie theater with friends. (Haaretz agreed to Nour's request that her image not be published alongside this interview.)

How do you identify politically (right, left or center)?

Left, because the Joint List [the Arab-led list she supports] is part of the left.

How do you identify religiously, if at all?

As religious. 

Who did you vote for in the two rounds of elections in 2019?

In April, I voted for Ra’am-Balad [a joint ticket of the Islamic United Arab List and nationalist Balad], and in September for the Joint List [which includes all four major Arab parties].

Who do you plan to vote for in the third round on March 2?

For the Joint List.

Did you vote for the same party as your parents?

Yes.

Have you attended any demonstration in the past year  and if so, for or against what?

I attended the May Day march with my fellow youth movement members in Haifa, and I attended the protest against the nation-state law in Tel Aviv.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I see myself as a successful accountant. I don’t know if I’ll be married or not, or with or without kids.

Do you see your future in Israel?

I would like to go to Canada or maybe New York, but I think it would be a problem for my parents. 

How do you most identify?

First as a woman, then as an Arab, and then as a Muslim. 

What do you consider to be the most burning political or social issue facing Israel today?

Violence in the Arab community.

Do you believe Israel has a special obligation to take in refugees and asylum seekers?

No.

Do you believe public buses should operate in Israel on Shabbat?

Yes, very much so.

Do you believe members of the LGBTQ community deserve full rights?

I don’t really know. 

Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in other words, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel?

No. I don’t think it’s a good solution. I support one state for all its citizens with full rights for everyone. 

Do you support Israeli annexation of the West Bank?

No.

Are you familiar with the nation-state law, and if so what’s your position on it?

I am, and I’m against it. 

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