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.
Groups of bicycle-riding vigilantes have been repainting 14 blocks of Williamsburg roadways ever since the city sandblasted their bike lanes away last week at the request of the Hasidic community.
The Hasids, who have long had a huge enclave in the now-artist-haven neighborhood, had complained that the Bedford Avenue bike paths posed both a safety and religious hazard.
Scantily clad hipster cyclists attracted to the Brooklyn neighborhood made it difficult, the Hasids said, to obey religious laws forbidding them from staring at members of the opposite sex in various states of undress. These riders also were disobeying the traffic laws, they complained.
Two cycling advocates were apprehended by the Shomrim Patrol, a Hasidic neighborhood watch group, as they repainted a section of bike lane at 3:30 a.m. yesterday, but when cops arrived, no one was arrested and no summonses were issued, police said.
“These people should apply for a job at the DOT,” neighborhood activist Isaac Abraham said of the repainting. “You put it on, they take it off — and they will probably do this again.”
A Department of Transportation spokesman said: “We will continue to work with any community on ways we can make changes to our streets without compromising safety.”
A source close to Mayor Bloomberg said removing the lanes was an effort to appease the Hasidic community just before last month’s election.
Abraham contends the bike lanes put children at risk of getting hit by cars or bicycles as they exited school buses.
But Baruch Herzfeld, who has tried to bridge the gap between hipsters and Hasids with a bike-rental program, said safety is not the issue so much as xenophobia.
“They don’t want the hipsters in their neighborhood,” he said. “It’s like in Howard Beach back in the day when they didn’t want black people in the neighborhood.”
The cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives has not taken sides in the dispute.
But bike lane or not, “cyclists have a right to be on Bedford Avenue,” said Wiley Norvell, a group spokesman.
A few weeks ago, a senior Greek Orthodox clergyman in Israel attended a meeting at a government office in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul quarter. When he returned to his car, an elderly man wearing a skullcap came and knocked on the window. When the clergyman let the window down, the passerby spat in his face.
The clergyman prefered not to lodge a complaint with the police and told an acquaintance that he was used to being spat at by Jews. Many Jerusalem clergy have been subjected to abuse of this kind. For the most part, they ignore it but sometimes they cannot.
On Sunday, a fracas developed when a yeshiva student spat at the cross being carried by the Armenian Archbishop during a procession near the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City. The archbishop’s 17th-century cross was broken during the brawl and he slapped the yeshiva student.
Both were questioned by police and the yeshiva student will be brought to trial. The Jerusalem District Court has meanwhile banned the student from approaching the Old City for 75 days.
But the Armenians are far from satisfied by the police action and say this sort of thing has been going on for years. Archbishop Nourhan Manougian says he expects the education minister to say something.
“When there is an attack against Jews anywhere in the world, the Israeli government is incensed, so why when our religion and pride are hurt, don’t they take harsher measures?” he asks.
According to Daniel Rossing, former adviser to the Religious Affairs Ministry on Christian affairs and director of a Jerusalem center for Christian-Jewish dialogue, there has been an increase in the number of such incidents recently, “as part of a general atmosphere of lack of tolerance in the country.”
Rossing says there are certain common characeristics from the point of view of time and location to the incidents. He points to the fact that there are more incidents in areas where Jews and Christians mingle, such as the Jewish and Armenian quarters of the Old City and the Jaffa Gate.
There are an increased number at certain times of year, such as during the Purim holiday.”I know Christians who lock themselves indoors during the entire Purim holiday,” he says.
Former adviser to the mayor on Christian affairs, Shmuel Evyatar, describes the situation as “a huge disgrace.” He says most of the instigators are yeshiva students studying in the Old City who view the Christian religion with disdain.
“I’m sure the phenomenon would end as soon as rabbis and well-known educators denounce it. In practice, rabbis of yeshivas ignore or even encourage it,” he says.
Evyatar says he himself was spat at while walking with a Serbian bishop in the Jewish quarter, near his home. “A group of yeshiva students spat at us and their teacher just stood by and watched.”
Jerusalem municipal officials said they are aware of the problem but it has to be dealt with by the police. Shmuel Ben-Ruby, the police spokesman, said they had only two complaints from Christians in the past two years. He said that, in both cases, the culprits were caught and punished.
He said the police deploy an inordinately high number of patrols and special technology in the Old City and its surroundings in an attempt to keep order.
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.
It’s incredible to see how stupid people are. Here we have a group of young Jews in Israel who are engaging in book burning.
JERUSALEM: Orthodox Jews set fire to hundreds of copies of the New Testament in the latest act of violence against Christian missionaries in the Holy Land.
Or Yehuda Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon said missionaries recently entered a neighborhood in the predominantly religious town of 34,000 in central Israel, distributing hundreds of New Testaments and missionary material.
After receiving complaints, Aharon said, he got into a loudspeaker car last Thursday and drove through the neighborhood, urging people to turn over the material to Jewish religious students who went door to door to collect it.
The books were dumped into a pile and set afire in a lot near a synagogue, he said.
The Israeli Maariv daily reported Tuesday that hundreds of Jewish religious school students took part in the book-burning. But Aharon told The Associated Press that only a few students were present, and that he was not there when the books were torched. Not all of the New Testaments that were collected were burned, but hundreds were, he said.
Let’s assume these students are young and stupid, and haven’t actually learned about their own history, what the hell were their older counterparts doing giving them the books knowing that the books were being collected so they could be burned? I suppose history really is doomed to repeat its self.
On April 6, 1933, the German Student Association’s Main Office for Press and Propaganda proclaimed a nationwide “Action against the Un-German Spirit”, to climax in a literary purge or “cleansing” (“SÃ¤uberung”) by fire. Local chapters were to supply the press with releases and commissioned articles, sponsor well-known Nazi figures to speak at public gatherings, and negotiate for radio broadcast time. On April 8 the students association also drafted its twelve “theses”, deliberately evoking Martin Luther; the theses declared and outlined a “pure” national language and culture. Placards publicized the theses, which attacked “Jewish intellectualism”, asserted the need to “purify” German language and literature, and demanded that universities be centers of German nationalism. The students described the “action” as a response to a worldwide Jewish “smear campaign” against Germany and an affirmation of traditional German values.
In a symbolic act of ominous significance, on May 10, 1933 the students burned upwards of 25,000 volumes of “un-German” books, presaging an era of state censorship and control of culture. On the night of May 10, in most university towns, nationalist students marched in torchlight parades “against the un-German spirit.” The scripted rituals called for high Nazi officials, professors, rectors, and student leaders to address the participants and spectators. At the meeting places, students threw the pillaged and unwanted books into the bonfires with great joyous ceremony, band-playing, songs, “fire oaths,” and incantations.
Not all book burnings took place on May 10, as the German Student Association had planned. Some were postponed a few days because of rain. Others, based on local chapter preference, took place on June 21, the summer solstice, a traditional date of celebration. Nonetheless, in 34 university towns across Germany the “Action against the Un-German Spirit” was a success, enlisting widespread newspaper coverage. And in some places, notably Berlin, radio broadcasts brought the speeches, songs, and ceremonial incantations “live” to countless German listeners.
Disgusting. “Dort, wo man BÃ¼cher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.” (“Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people.”) -Heinrich Heine
Â I wont bother commenting on the sheer stupidity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but this is great to hear, right? Can we soon expect all Arabs to be required to wear armbands to identify themselves publicly?
An Israeli civil rights group has said racism against Arab citizens of Israel has risen sharply in the past year.
In a report, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said expression of anti-Arab views had doubled, and racist incidents had increased by 26%.
Christian or Muslim Arab citizens of Israel make up 20% of the population.
But the civil rights quoted polls suggesting half of Jewish Israelis do not believe Arab citizens of Israel should have equal rights.
About the same amount said they wanted the government to encourage Arab emigration from Israel.
In another poll, almost 75% of Jewish youths said Arabs were less intelligent and less clean than Jews.