Losing their religion

Haaretz.com/September 6, 2004
By Ruta Kupfer

Alon Sharvit, the director of the personal-documentary series "Jerusalem Right, Tel Aviv Left," which will be shown tonight on the satellite Israeli Film Channel, was born and raised in a secular home. When he was 10 years old his father became religiously observant and the entire family became ultra-Orthodox along with him. Three years later, Sharvit decided to go back to the secular side. No wonder he is rather confused today.

Sharvit brings to his film stories of other people like himself, who have lived in both these worlds. He talks about the journey between the secular world and the religious world as if it were obvious that every secular person has a religious side, an assumption that is not proved, and therefore creates a sense that he has simply not come to terms with his way. According to him, he has "a yearning to belong, to a past and particularly to a family."

This is what apparently tipped the balance for Shai Horowitz. At the age of 15 he left religion and his ultra-Orthodox parents' home and set up the Hillel non-profit association, which helps young people who have left religion, and created quite a stir in the media. After a while, he returned to religion and today he is a yeshiva student in every respect. When you meet him and his brother in the religious neighborhood of Jerusalem, the brother says he has erased this story from the family history. In the religious world, it often happens that someone who leaves his family is erased, and if he returns - they suppress his abandonment. It is clear that Horowitz does not feel comfortable with this system, but he understands that he has to come to terms with it.

Eli Vidan's story is very interesting. As a teenager, he too decided to leave the yeshiva and religion, even though his father explained to him that leaving the yeshiva meant he would be thrown out of the house. At first he lived as homeless person in Lifta on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and today he is a successful organizer of parties and festivals in Tel Aviv.

About two years ago his mother phoned him and told him that his elder brother was in critical condition: Both of his kidneys had stopped functioning and he needed a transplant. Of all the 10 siblings, only Eli was found suitable as a 100 percent match as a donor, and he agreed to give one of his kidneys to his brother, who until then was not in touch with him.

Sharvit, who is apparently looking for reasons to return to his former world, asks him whether the fact that he was found most suited to be a donor is not a sign from God.

Also participating in the series is Daria Arieli, whose father became religiously observant when she was a little girl. She lives in Tel Aviv with her mother and visits her father in Jerusalem, and seems comfortable with belonging to two homes: She accepts them both, but remains in her own world on the coastal plain.

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