When she left, she left everything behind — even her name. She no longer wanted to be known as Sarah, the name her parents had given her. She’d felt imprisoned by that name for too long; it made her feel different and subject to laws that others imposed upon her. So, she started her new life with a new name, Mayan, the Hebrew word for “source.”
It’s been seven years since Mayan “landed on planet Earth,” as she puts it. But the 27-year-old doesn’t feel completely at home here yet. She’s a young, modern Israeli woman. Still, despite the dragon tattoo on her shoulder and the loose top offering occasional glimpses of her bra, there are always some moments that betray her past. For example, when her friends talk about old TV series, classic pop music or their first schoolyard crushes, Mayan can’t join in. Until she was 17 years old, Mayan lived in another world, a world where those things simply didn’t exist.
A Life Completely Focused on Religion
The “parallel universe” Mayan used to live in has around 550,000 inhabitants. It is the world of the Orthodox Jews in Israel, whose adherents live in tight-knit communities where everything revolves around religion. They radically shield themselves from modern life. Television is frowned upon, as is non-religious music, telephones and the Internet. News that is important to the community is disseminated via notices posted on walls. Boys and girls go to school, but their education is primarily focused on religion.
“Everyone can read and write, but math was over after simple multiplication,” Mayan says. “When I left school, I didn’t even know what New York was, and I had never even seen a dog because nobody kept any pets.”
According to Irit Paneth, it is this lack of education, in particular, that makes it almost impossible for doubters in these communities to break out of the inflexible corset of their belief. Paneth is a member of Hillel – The Right To Choose, an organization that helps those leaving the Orthodox faith start a normal life. “We are not against the religion,” Paneth explains. “But Ultra-Orthodoxy is more like a cult that intellectually cripples children in the name of religion.” For most young people who break away from the Orthodox life, she explains, it’s like leaping off a cliff into the unknown. “They come without money, without education in the classical sense, without any chance of employment,” Paneth says.
One of the Fastest Growing Groups in Israel
According to government estimates, ultra-Orthodox Jews make up one of the fastest-growing groups in Israeli society. By 2025, the government forecasts that roughly 22 percent of school-age Israeli children will come from one of the groups with strong religious beliefs.
Over the 19 years it has been operating, only around 2,000 defectors have turned to Hillel. “There are tens of thousands who have doubts and want out,” Paneth says. But only a small number are ready and willing to make the sacrifices that defection demands. For example, most families completely break off contact with defectors. “Some even hold wakes,” Paneth says, “as if the daughter or son has actually died.”
Mayan grew up in Beitar Illit, an Orthodox settlement just south of Jerusalem in the Judean Mountains of the West Bank. There, men wear black suits and wide-brimmed hats. The women — whose style of clothing is intended solely to denote chastity — wear high-necked blouses, long skirts and often a head scarf. Likewise, the men don’t hold jobs but, instead, devote their lives to studying the Bible. The women feed their families and often raise up to 12 children.
Mayan’s childhood finished when she was seven, when her widowed mother remarried. From then on, she had to wear socks and long pants to bed under her nightgown — even in the summer — lest the bed cover slip off and expose here bare skin to her stepfather. And since her stepfather was not a blood relation, he was not allowed to touch her. In fact, he barely spoke with her, either.
Religious row as Orthodox Jewish couple sue neighbours for ‘imprisoning’ them with automatic hallway light
A Jewish couple are suing their neighbours in a block of flats, saying an automatic security light is keeping them prisoner in their home because it forces them to break their Sabbath rules.
Dr Dena Coleman and husband Gordon claim they cannot leave their holiday flat on the Sabbath because when they do they automatically trigger the light in the communal hallway – contravening a religious ban on turning on electrical items from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday because it constitutes ‘creating fire’.
They say their human rights are being breached and are now suing the flats’ management company – their neighbours – for failing to accommodate their religion.
The other 35 owners of the seaside flats are liable to pay court costs if the claim is successful.
Dr Coleman, a 56-year-old headteacher at a Jewish orthodox school in London, has been visiting the £200,000 holiday flat in Bournemouth, Dorset, with her husband for six years.
The management company fitted the motion-sensing lights six months ago in a bid to save energy and money.
The Colemans have offered to pay for an override switch to disable the light sensors during the Sabbath.
But the Embassy Court Management Company – which represents all residents and whose three directors also live in the block – said this would set an ‘unacceptable precedent’.
In a letter sent to occupants of all of the other 35 apartments in the block, the Colemans said: ‘Faced with a situation where we could never again have full use of our flat, we were left with no alternative but to seek legal advice.’
The couple said they would drop the case if an override switch was installed and the management company paid their legal costs and compensation.
The argument has sparked controversy between the other residents.
One resident, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It has caused quite a stir here, there have been a lot of arguments.
‘There has been a meeting about it and many of the residents aren’t happy.
‘There’s a feeling that things shouldn’t be changed just to suit people in one flat when everyone else is happy with it.
‘I don’t think the rest of us would think twice about the lights but they’re going to great lengths to get it changed so they must feel very strongly about it.’
The couple say they only moved into the flat in spring 2003 on the understanding that movement sensors would never be installed in communal areas.
They have now issued a county court writ against the management company, saying they have discriminated against them on the grounds of religion.
The claim also accuses the company of breaching their rights under the Equality Act 2006 and Human Rights Act 1998.
In a statement the company said: ‘The directors believe that almost all lessees at Embassy Court support the actions taken by the management company to reduce communal lighting electricity costs, and to reduce repair and maintenance costs by preventing heat damage to light fittings and prolonging their life.
‘The directors further believe that almost all lessees support the installation of movement sensor controls in the hallways and have no personal problems with their installations.
‘Unfortunately correspondence between directors and lessees concerned failed to resolve the dispute.
‘Clearly the lessees [the Colemans] felt so strongly that their rights may have been infringed by the management company that they decided to take legal action. That is their prerogative.
‘A key allegation in this claim is that the movement sensors installed in the hallway discriminate against the claimants, who are orthodox Jews, on the grounds of their religion and belief.
‘The lessees also allege in the claim that when they purchased their flat in the spring of 2003 it was on the basis of assurances from selling agents that that movement sensors would not be installed at Embassy Court.
‘Although other lessees are innocent parties in this legal dispute, in accordance with the lease, the Management Company’s expenses reasonably incurred in these legal proceedings with be recoverable from all lessees in the service charge, to the extent that these expenses are not paid by the other parties to the proceedings.’
The case is due to be heard at Bournemouth County Couty later this year.
Dr Coleman is the headteacher at Yavneh College in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, the author of several books on education.
Interesting Tidbit: Apparently it’s normal for a rabbi to suck a baby’s penis after circumcising it… that sound totally normal; doesn’t it?
City health officials are investigating the death of a baby boy who was one of three infants to contract herpes after a rabbi circumcised them.Ten days after Rabbi Yitzhok Fischer performed religious circumcisions on twins last October, one died of herpes and the other tested positive for the virus, according to a complaint filed by the health department in Manhattan Supreme Court.
The complaint, reported in Wednesday’s edition of the New York Daily News, also said health officials later found a third baby who had contracted herpes after being circumcised by Fischer in late 2003.
Under Jewish law, a mohel — someone who performs circumcisions — draws blood from the circumcision wound. Most mohels do it by hand with a suction device, but Fischer uses a practice rare outside strict Orthodox groups where he uses his mouth to draw blood after cutting the foreskin.Herpes can cause potentially severe complications for infants because of their undeveloped immune systems. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that the rare ritual puts newborns at serious risk of contracting herpes simplex virus and shouldn’t be performed as part of the circumcision procedure.
Fischer’s lawyer, Mark Kurzmann, told the Daily News that Fischer was cooperating with the investigation, although it’s unclear whether Fischer submitted to the city’s request for a blood test.
“My client is known internationally as a caring, skilled, and conscientious mohel,” Kurzmann said.
Here’s something you probably didn’t know about. In order to rig online polls and social networking sites to sway commentary and such in favor of Israel, there’s a delightful program you can use! It’s pretty simple, it pops up a little window in the corner of your screen whenever the admins find a new poll to rig in their favor, or if someone is writing something critical of Israel in the news or on a blog, then they send all their pro-Israeli users to that site and have them go nuts and call them anti-Semites, because let’s face it.. if you’re critical of Israel, you’re essentially a nazi right? How dare someone not approve of something Israel does…. …….. *cough*
The Megaphone desktop tool is a Windows “action alert” tool developed by Give Israel Your United Support (GIYUS) and distributed by World Union of Jewish Students, World Jewish Congress, The Jewish Agency for Israel, World Zionist Organization, StandWithUs, Hasbara fellowships, HonestReporting, and other pro-Israel public relations, media watchdog, or activism organizations. The tool delivers real-time alerts about key articles, videos, blogs, and surveys related to Israel or the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially those perceived by GIYUS to be highly critical of Israel, so that users can vote or add comments expressing their support of Israel. The tool was released in July during the 2006 Lebanon War. An RSS newsfeed is available so that non-Windows users may also receive the Megaphone “action alerts.
According the Jerusalem Post, Amir Gissin, head of the Public Affairs Department of the Foreign Ministry of Israel, has expressed support for the tool’s use. “The Foreign Ministry itself is now pushing the idea, urging supporters of Israel everywhere to become cyberspace soldiers in the new battleground for Israel’s image.” it reports. Computing website The Register has described use of the software as “highly organised mass manipulation of technologies which are supposed to be democratising” and claimed Megaphone is “effectively a high-tech exercise in ballot-stuffing” The Register also reported that the BBC History magazine website “noticed an upsurge in voting on whether holocaust denial should be a criminal offence in Britain. But the closing date had already passed and the result had already been published, so the votes were invalid anyway.” Stewart Purvis, former editor-in-chief of ITN, has noted that an independent panel reviewing the BBC’s Israeli-Palestinian coverage received a large number of letters from North America which accused the BBC of being anti-Israeli. He states there was evidence of “pressure group involvement”.