Former Israeli teen star enjoys single motherhood in Thailand

She burst onto the scene 20 years ago, but fame attracted unwanted attention; now she relishes a relaxed existence on a scenic island with her baby daughter; 'She sleeps through every night until nine', she smiles

Orit Merlin-Rosenzweig|
Two weeks before boarding a flight to Thailand with her infant daughter, actress Hili Yalon went to the local coffee cart to get some coffee, and when she returned to her car, she saw someone blocking her exit. He told her he was just getting a coffee and be right back, but she made it clear she's in a hurry.
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  • He came closer and said: "You must be a liberal."
    3 View gallery
    הילי ילון עם בתה גוני
    הילי ילון עם בתה גוני
    Hili Yalon and her daughter Goni
    (Photo: Kate Zharikowa)
    She replied: "Yes, I'm a single parent, vegan and lesbian liberal."
    "Truthfully, I'm neither vegan nor lesbian," she said. "But six months after giving birth I'm quite hormonal. I've been known to get into vocal conflicts with people."
    Yalon, almost 38, felt she needed an escape from the stressful Israeli reality. As we're face-timing her in her new home in Ko Samui, an island off the eastern coast of mainland Thailand, she stresses to us that she's still the most Israeli person there is.
    "I drink black coffee and yesterday I had hummus, but things were rough in Israel. Here I have a home with a pool in my yard, with an ocean view, all for $430 a month."
    Is it fair to say you've left Israel?
    "It wasn't a conscious decision. I just wanted to travel with my daughter Goni, and I don't know when I'll be back. I didn't want to raise a baby in all that Israeli stress. My daughter is only 6 months old and has already been to Sinai twice and now Thailand.
    "Many of my high school friends are also overseas. New York, London, Berlin, Amsterdam. I'm a Zionist and I love Israel, but it's headed in a bad direction. There's practically a war on the roads every day and even parking for a second in Tel Aviv to get coffee is impossible.
    "It's also very expensive. I can't buy anything. It's hard enough being an artist and a single mother. Gas is like NIS 500 each time. And I haven't even brought up politics. When people tell me I'm brave for picking up and traveling with my daughter, I tell them they're the brave ones for staying in Israel.
    "In Thailand, I feel safer. Sure, a snake slithered by while I was lying on a beach blanket a few days ago, but I feel within my right mind when I'm here."
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    הילי ילון עם בתה גוני
    הילי ילון עם בתה גוני
    Hili and Goni
    (Photo: Kate Zharikowa)
    So what are your plans?
    "I'd like to find my stomping ground in Israel, but I have so many questions. I miss my dad but needed to get away. I'm not entirely certain where exactly I'll raise my daughter. People tell me it's difficult everywhere, but I don't get that. Israel is a pressure cooker. Protests, politics, people being lynched like that case in Bat Yam. So no. It's not difficult everywhere."
    There are protests going on over the judicial reform and public broadcaster Kan is facing closure.
    "I'm always in fear of missing out on current events in Israel. Every Sunday morning, I check to see how many people turned out at the rallies. I'm there in spirit, more connected to it here than I ever was in Israel. I don't get involved in politics too much except to say that I'm against all forms of dictatorship and against shutting down public broadcast. Kan 11 is the only channel I'd love to be an actress in. I crave artistic work."
    You were part of a musical drama there a year ago.
    "I absolutely loved it. I pick my projects with my coworkers in mind. I won't work with a producer who will constantly rush me."
    A teen star almost 20 years ago, Yalon took part in several Israeli teen shows and even recorded two singing albums. "Fame traumatized me. A mother once stopped her car in Tel Aviv when I was having my nails done, asking for an autograph. She then accused me of being a snob. I don't miss it."
    (Hili as a teen star)
    Kids are an audience that loves you unconditionally.
    "Some actors can do those huge productions. I wanted to be a rock star, but whenever they pitched me an idea about something I didn't write, I refused. I didn't want to be labeled and marketed in a way that wasn't me. I had panic attacks but people interpreted it as me being a snob."
    You don't miss the days you were recognized on the street?
    "Do I miss being traumatized? No. If they offered me a Hollywood role for a million bucks a day, I'd turn it down, but a guest role on Kan for a few hours? Sure. I just sent two songs of mine to Israel and we'll see how that works out."
    Six years ago, she left Tel Aviv for a quiet moshav called Sho'eva, west of Jerusalem, back to her parents. "The house in Sho'eva has seven rooms, and it felt therapeutic to me. I had shaman rituals and cleansings there, including a workshop about acquiring tools that are useful both on and off stage. I will definitely have more workshops.
    "I dream of running around the house with kids and a partner. I want love in my life but I need to be able to trust my partner and that's hard to come by.
    "I've been wanting to be a mom for ten years, and at some point, I said that I'm either procreating or simply dying. There are only so many workshops you can take. I was at a dead end. My body screamed for a baby, but finding a partner is a challenge."
    First you tried with a gay friend.
    "He wanted to help but he also made some conditions that I couldn't live with, so I went to a sperm bank."
    Conceiving took time.
    "Four years, with a lot of hormonal imbalance on the way. Eventually, they approved fertilization."
    Who stood by you through all this?
    "My dad, on top of more supportive circles I created for myself. Some single mothers didn't choose it, but I did. People tell me that it must be rough on me. It's not. I went through an amazing thing and my daughter is my magic and the reason I exist."
    Does she wake you up in the middle of the night?
    "She sleeps through every night until nine. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and bummed out by the fact that she didn't. She began eating solids. I feel content when it's just the two of us. I don't know how to let someone else in. I might hire a babysitter during yoga classes.
    "The reason I'm doing this story is that I want to convey the message to aspiring single mothers that there's nothing to fear, but I won't pretend there aren't difficulties. People always ask where's the father, and they apologize when they realize I'm a single mother.
    "After giving birth, so many people in the moshav came to see me. They brought so much food I couldn't fit it in the fridge."
    3 View gallery
    הילי ילון עם בתה גוני
    הילי ילון עם בתה גוני
    Nursing her baby girl on the beach in Thailand
    (Photo: Kate Zharikowa)
    Are you ready for a partner?
    "I could have met someone the second I got pregnant, but I didn't. Maybe I'm not ready for it. I'm not a loner, but I tend to take risky choices. Besides, having a baby serves as a great filter for potential relationships."
    What's really stopping you from having a relationship?
    "I'm scared of compromising and I've still got time to be in a good relationship, but I was running out of time to be a mother. Another consideration was when I saw friends of mine get married, have kids and then get divorced, and were unable to leave the country because the dad wanted time with the child too. I didn't want those limitations. I just don't know where I want to live yet.
    "I want a happy relationship with love and romance, but how many couples are truly happy? I want to find someone who would travel the world with me. I hope I'm brave enough to withstand the stormy nature of a relationship."
    How is your father coping with being far away from his granddaughter?
    "It's hard for him. Recently I began doing video chats with my mom. I used to have it rough with her, but motherhood mellowed me out. I no longer demand an apology from those who wronged me. It doesn't work like that."
    Can you support yourself for a while without working?
    "I saved up for a long time, and I live in a bamboo shed, not a resort. I teach acting and I do workshops so it's great for the time being. I believe things will work out. I'm not rich, but I have what I need. I just need to always keep in mind that I should do what feels right for me, and everything else will fall into place."
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