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Religious Fanaticism Is Unacceptable From Any Religion

January 13, 2012 4 comments

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Why can’t we all get along? I think the answer is the fanatics. I really do think they are the root of some many of the problems we see in the world today. As I have made pretty clear in previous posts I am Jewish and what I am going to center on today are Jewish religious fanatics in Israel right now. However, I do think that this problem is happening all over the world (and has been for centuries) with all religions and their extremist and fringe groups.

Slate.com and the BBC and the USA Today, the New York Times, and CBS have all covered the issue of an 8 year old girl in the central Israeli town of Beit Shemesh who has been spat on and called a whore by Hasidic Jews who also live in Beit Shemesh. This poor girl is scared to walk the under 1,000 feet to her school in the mornings because of these crazed individuals. What has this girl done that has her in the center of an uproar? Apparently her sleeves aren’t long enough to the satisfaction of the Hasidic Jews across the street. It isn’t as if this girl is flaunting anything in front of these people – she doesn’t even know what it is to flaunt sexuality she is EIGHT! It also isn’t as if she is dressed particularly immodestly by most people’s standards as her family are Orthodox Jews themselves, they are just modern Orthodox Jews who use the internet and watch TV and movies and don’t dress the same way as if they lived in 18th Century Eastern Europe.

Oh, and to be clear, this story strikes close to home because I know this poor girl’s father. I have known him for almost 20 years and I know he is a fully practicing Orthodox Jew and so are his wife and children. (Trust me, he once got pissed off at me when I sent him an NSFW email!) This girl is walking to a single-sex Orthodox school where they, too, would not tolerate her being immodestly or improperly dressed. I remember in my private Orthodox Jewish day school days we weren’t allowed to have our shirts untucked, had to wear collared shirts, weren’t allowed jeans, and could only wear baseball caps during when we weren’t in the classroom (like at recess or lunch or after school).

This isn’t a clash between Ultra-Orthodox Jews and women in bikinis (although I have no problem with women in bikinis and encourage it) this is a clash between two sets of Orthodox Jews one who has decided that the other isn’t “Orthodox enough.” If these people are so dedicated to being Ultra-Orthodox Jews what the heck are they doing standing on the sidewalks when this girl is going to school anyway? Shouldn’t they be praying or studying or going to work?

These people’s rabbis are, in my mind, nothing more than cult leaders as they seem to forget some basic tenets of Judaism when teaching their followers. In my youth there was one concept of Judaism which was commonly beaten into my head as an all important thing: Don’t desecrate the name of God. Basically, Judaism teaches that because Jews are God’s Chosen People anything they do reflects on God and therefore acting in a way that is perceived negatively by people is bad PR for God. It is something taken so seriously that we are told that neither regular repentance, repenting on the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur, or suffering can fully effect atonement for a person transgressing this sin. (Source here.) If I had to guess I would assume that this story and behavior like this puts Jews in a pretty bad PR spot but I can check with some of my friends in marketing and PR to make sure.

It says in the Talmud (Bava Metziya 58b-59a if you’d like to take a look) that a person who makes someone blush in public (humiliates them) it is as if they shed blood. Not only that, but the same passage relates that there are only three sins which forever prevent someone’s soul from leaving “Gehenom” (best way to describe it is Hell but it isn’t, it is a different concept but it is where one goes after they die to be cleansed of their earthly misdeeds). Two of those sins are:

  1. Making someone blush
  2. Coining a derogatory nickname for someone.

Ya, that’s how seriously Judaism takes publicly shaming someone else.

They go on to talk about cases from the Old Testament which show how serious an offense it is to shame someone in public and there is a big discussion about it. Funnily enough, given the circumstances of this issue in modern day Beit Shemesh, one of the case studies that the rabbis of the Talmud discuss which shows how serious a sin this is and how righteous people of the Old Testament went to great lengths to avoid this transgression is the story of Judah and his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar a lady who was ready to be thrown into a furnace for the sin of prostitution rather than shame Judah in public. The reason I say it is sort of funny is that this story which Jews are supposed to learn the importance of not shaming someone in public is the story about a woman seen to be a prostitute and what are these Hasidic crazies calling this poor 8 year old girl? A whore.

If you want more evidence of how messed up the viewpoint of some of these people are just read the comments on this blog post: http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/……8-year-old-girl-234.html.

One of the loonie toons who wrote a comment in the above linked post says that maybe it is really a young looking 18 year old girl sent by demons to tempt the young men to sin OR maybe a demon has taken over her body and because of this she was trying to lead men astray. Yes, this person seems to be completely serious. They also suggest that we are not fit to judge the whole situation because we are not big rabbinic authorities and only they are apparently suited to deciding if it is OK to verbally abuse an 8 year girl and spit on her for showing her forearms in public.

Extremism in any religion is not a good thing. It doesn’t matter if your Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or any other religion. We can all coexist if we accept that there are other schools of thought and religions and belief systems and we cannot control what other people do and shouldn’t even be considering trying to unless it impacts us in a harmful manner.

/rant

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Reunions: A Troublesome Trio Traipsing Toronto Together Again!

April 30, 2011 Leave a comment

April 2006 at the Frog & Firkin in North York, Toronto: Akiva on my left, Jon on my right.

Wow, since that picture above was taken it has been 5 long years. I have seen both of these guys individually since this picture was taken but we haven’t all been together in the same city since April 2006. Back in the day (which was a Tuesday, if anyone ever says “back in the day”, the day they’re referring to was a Tuesday) we used to be inseparable. I met Akiva when he and his family moved from South Africa to Canada in 5th grade and then met Jon in high school in 10th Grade. When Akiva came to our high school in 11th Grade a lifelong bond was formed between the three of us. We became as close as brothers and, quite honestly, I talk to them more often these days than I talk to my brothers by who are genetically my family.

We went to Israel together after high school and spent the year touring around Israel and having adventures. But we haven’t all hung out together since they were both in town when that picture above was taken. Now, Akiva still lives in Israel and is married with 3 kids – and is quite a bit more responsible than anyone ever thought possible. Jon lives in London, England and is still living the single life with a girlfriend every now and again much like me. I, as you all know, live in Toronto and as previously stated am still unattached.

Of course, both of them come into Toronto fairly frequently to visit their families but, unfortunately, the timing never worked out in the past bunch of years for all of us to be together in the same city until now. So I am happily headed out tonight to chill with my boys again and see what kind of trouble we can get into. (Yes, I am trying to recapture my youth! Don’t judge me!)

This also reminds me that I have to go visit them in London and Israel at some point in the future – I still haven’t been back to Israel since 2001 and I’ve never been to London.

Have a great rest of the weekend folks!

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