An Important Perspective from the Protest in Israel

We share with you a translation of one of the most instructive and concise texts we have read recently, the words delivered by Prof. Moti Segev from the Technion on April 29th, 2023, at the weekly demonstration of thousands held in Haifa. His words offer a genuine and compelling perspective from the protest movement, conveying nuances and emotions beyond what you may have read and heard until now.….

Professor Moti SegevProfessor Moti Segev


For several months now, since the beginning of the coalition’s Judicial Upheaval initiative, we have been writing and working to thwart this threat to the democratic character of the State of Israel, which is also directly related to the attempt to hurt Jewish pluralism and bring Israel closer to the model of an Orthodox Torah State. Justice Minister Levin and the Chairman of the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee are aggressively promoting the reform. Its supporters are trying to present it as a conflict between the left and the right, claiming that it is an attempt by the left to overthrow the government by other means after having failed to achieve a majority in the most recent elections.

Supporters of the reform see the protest as an irresponsible action by anarchist extremists for whom the future of the State of Israel is of no importance, and are willing to destroy its security, economy and international status, to regain power. The truth is of course the opposite, and we have noted this more than once, emphasizing that Hiddush is bi-partisan and refrains from political disputes that divide Israeli society. We focus solely on the goal of full realization of the Declaration of Independence's assurance of religious freedom and equality. But the seriousness and danger of the threat to Israeli democracy as well as its direct connection to the struggle for religious freedom, equality and pluralism led us to take a clear and active position to protect Israeli democracy.

Prof. Segev's words, which come from the heart and are moving in their power, will illustrate to you how much this is not really a dispute between the right and the left, and who are those who are standing with hundreds of thousands of other Israelis for the past 18 weeks to protect the soul of the State of Israel. You can observe the extent to which the unprecedented struggle taking place now is related to the issues of religion and the state and the growing distortion of the Declaration of Independence's guarantee of religious freedom and equality.

"Good evening. My name is Moti Segev, and I am a Professor at the Technion and an Israel Prize laureate in physic. But inside I am Skajo, the son of Shlomo the shoemaker, who was a Holocaust survivor. My father and mother were simple, poor people who raised us to as true Zionists. At first, we lived in a one-room apartment in Wadi Salib, [a poor, mixed [Jewish/Arab neighborhood in Haifa] and later on we moved to the evacuees housing complex in Neve Sha'anan. So, you can't really say that I am one of the “privileged ones that wear Rolex watches”. [Reference to Minister David Amsalem, who attacked the protestors in a harsh Knesset speech saying that they “belonged to a minority group of the rich Ashkenazi elite, who wear Rolex watches”]

I was raised on the teachings of Jabotinsky and Begin , in a “Revisionist Zionism” home. I am politically right-wing and believe that the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley should not be relinquished to any foreign ruler. But no less important – I believe in the values of democracy, justice ,and equality. I can unequivocally say that in recent months some of our leaders have lost these basic values….

Today we stand here together right wing, left wing, Jews, Druse (our brothers in arms) and Arabs, fighting for the character of this country. There is no difference between us. There is us. All of us. There is togetherness. If we choose polarization, it will result in destruction of the Third Temple [referring to the fact that the Sages said that the Second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred/inner strife among the Jewish factions at that time, and many refer to the founding of the State of Israel and the renewed Jewish sovereignty as the “Third Temple”]. This is something we can't afford, and certainly not for our children.

My opinions- as an Israel Prize laureate in physics - are of no more importance than those of my late father Shlomo, a simple shoemaker. Therefore, I will not talk about politics, but about subjects in which I have expertise: academia and the relationship between academia, high-tech and security.


I returned to the Technion after filling the position of full professor at Princeton University in the USA. I can proudly state that my most significant discoveries were made at the Technion. I taught generations of excellent researchers: 24 of them are now professors in Israel and abroad, and many others are in key positions in industry. Over the years I have recruited dozens of Israelis to return to Israel to assume academic positions (at the Technion alone – approximately 30 people) and many others at research universities in Israel.

However, now I have to say with great concern, that this is the first time since I returned to Israel in 1998 that I see those who are candidates to return to Israel postponing the decision to return and preferring to “sit on the fence” waiting. Why is this happening? What has changed or is going to change? ….

The thing that brought those minds and people back to Israel up until now was Zionism (which is not a word!) and the knowledge that our future and the future of our children is here, in a democratic country that allows everyone to express their opinions and explore diverse

"Today we stand here together right wing, left wing, Jews, Druse (our brothers in arms) and Arabs, fighting for the character of this country."

fields. The certainty that we can continue to develop the technologies of the future as one of the leading countries of the world.

All of these outweighed the economic temptation to work abroad.

The changes that the government intends to make will hurt all of these and the future of our children. Only our children and their friends will be required to contribute their best years for the sake of the country by serving in the military forces, some of them risking their lives, while a growing population is exempt from this obligation. We are required to pay higher and higher taxes (and in the future our children will be forced to do so) in order to support a growing segment of the population, some of which are not even Zionist, that do not bear their share of the burden and do not provide for themselves….

The current decision makers are people who despise all our values, express themselves toward us in a disgraceful manner, incite against us. They have lost the meaning of the word “shame” long ago. In this situation it is difficult to feel the same respect and longing for Israel, and to give up a coveted job and excellent benefits abroad and return to a country that, God forbid, is about to change completely, according to the plans of our politicians.

Friends, these researchers that we hope will return to Israel are the future of research in Israel. They are the ones who produce the knowledge that will later contribute to start-up companies, to further development, and which is essential for political, economic and social success. We must not give up on them. The future generations in Israel will not be able to exist if we do not have world-class academic research.


The key phrase is “knowledge is the future”. In the High-Tech industry, there is a direct relationship between the quality of the researchers and the quality of the high-tech, technology and security industries

Several companies, such as Elbit and Elscint originated from the Technion. The Matam Science Park, which gave birth to the high-tech industry in Israel, started at the Technion.

Therefore, brain drain from academia will also undermine the High-Tech and technology industries.

In the past - the dream of every Israeli startup was to sell it to a large company that would keep the project in Israel so that it would benefit Israel. For example - the INVISION company founded by my colleagues Professors Roni Kimmel and Alex and Michael Bronstein from the Technion. When it came time to be sold to a large company - there were many offers, but CEO Sagi Ben Moshe insisted on selling to a company that offered less money but which was committed to keeping the project in Israel. The company was sold to Intel, which established a division here in Haifa around this project.

Now, companies that purchased Israeli startups are mostly seeking to get their projects out of the country. This is so alarming!

We are already seeing another blow to startups: the difficulty that has arisen to bring investors to Israel. Our struggle here is over the character of Israeli society. We feel that those bearing the yoke have decreased, while the number of Yeshiva boys riding on our backs is increasing.

I tell you here and now - enough is enough!

Technology and Security:

In the past, I was a fighter in the IDF Infantry. I was the commander of a patrol unit in the military reserves for a decade, in Lebanon and also during the first intifada. But security also means recruiting candidates for significant technological roles. Some of my graduates have become leaders in the security industry. For example, a graduate of mine named Assaf (who is here today) led an important project that won the Israel Security Award two years ago.

These people are in the defense industry because of ideology. They have tempting offers abroad, but who among them would want to stay in the defense industry under a regime that is only semi-democratic?

I will conclude with three appeals:

The first: I call on the large number of liberal right-wingers like myself to attend the protest demonstrations en masse. I won't lie, it's very difficult for me to participate in a demonstration side by side with the "End the Occupation" protestors, but I can't look away from the attempt to turn us into a non-democratic country. Come and unite with everyone who pursues democracy.

My second appeal is to the Knesset members of the Likud, half of whom are liberal right-wingers like me. Don't be silent. I expect you to express out loud what Defense Minister Gallant started to say - even at the price of losing your seat.

The madness must stop.

In conclusion, I once again appeal to the large audience assembled here, and say:

Ladies and Gentlemen - we are fighting for the future of our country. … Let's tell Netanyahu: We will not be like Poland, without a democracy. Benjamin Netanyahu, if you continue in this manner, your past achievements will be thrown into the garbage bin of history. What you will be remembered for is that you caused a rift in Israeli society and brought about the destruction of the Zionist enterprise.

I will end with the thundering words of Jabotinsky in the Beitar anthem: “sheket hu refesh” ("Silence is filth.") I direct these words of Jabotinsky to all of those on the liberal right: stand up and takeaction. Join the protest.

Thank you.

Video of the speech at the demonstration from 29/4/2023 (Hebrew):


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