Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Think only Beit Shemeshites get spat on? Think again. אתה חושב שרק בבית שמש יורקים? חשוב שנית

In a talkback on the report of eight-year-old Naama Margolese getting spat on and called a whore on her way to school in Beit Shemesh for not being dressed what the ultra-Orthodox deem modestly, talkbacker Eleanor says: "This group [the rabbis] must be stopped."

Eleanor, unfortunately the “rabbis” will not voluntarily stop. Instead, the police must go, i.e., do their jobs as public servants. Law enforcement and swift crackdown is the only response that will bring the desired results. Not only are the rabbis not going to cede their power, but the perps may not even be taking orders from “above”. I hate to say it, because it's such an oft-used cliche about another minority, but if the shoe fits, wear it: The only language they understand is that of [police] force.

Does not anyone see the irony in the second paragraph of the article? The protest march venue was moved after Haredim threatened violence if it was held at Orot Banot? Excuse me? So let’s get this straight: The thugs succeeded in moving the March Against Thuggery by threatening to use violence if their demands aren’t met. Yoo-hoo! Police: Anybody there? Aren’t you the ones who are armed and trained in crowd control, and if necessary, arrest those who commit violence? You certainly had no compunction about doing so in October 2000 against Arabs, did you?

And why does Haaretz insist on describing Naama Margolese as "religiously observant"? What does her level of observance matter? No eight-year-old, or eighty-year-old, or anyone of any age or level of observance, of any faith or denomination, should have to undergo bullying anywhere, certainly not on her way to school.

When will we, and the legislature, press, police, and other institutions, call a spade a spade? This is bullying, it's harassment, and it's assault, all of which we have laws against. Police: ENFORCE, for God's sake! Today it's “just” the ultra-Orthodox spitting on the Orthodox; tomorrow it’s the ultra-Orthodox spitting on us all.

Sidebar: My daughter’s youth movement winter camp joined the protest, for which I’m proud. Since the protest was hastily organized only after the camp began, the camp organizers had to go into action quickly and get all the parents’ permission for the kids to protest. I of course gave mine, along with my blessing, but not all the parents did. I’d like to ask those parents two questions:

1. Where are your kids supposed to learn solidarity with the downtrodden and social activism if not in their youth movement? Where are they supposed to learn about rights, and not letting terror win out, if not from us, their parents?

2. If you think your neighborhood is safe, that this outrageous behavior is confined to Beit Shemesh (where we, the “enlightened” don’t live), you’re in denial. The Haredim are spreading, and with them their vigilante rule -- Coming Soon to a Nice Suburb Near You.

I confess, I was a little scared; I reminded the counselors to watch out for our kids, and I trust them to, although I don’t expect them to hover. But it’s times like these when I remind myself that Tzviya Lubetkin was only 14 when she crawled through the sewers beneath the Warsaw Ghetto to evade the Nazis while delivering arms to the ghetto fighters. I’m not being melodramatic; obviously I’m grateful that my children are spared such scenarios, likely thanks in part to the Tzviya Lubetkins. The point is that if young people during the Holocaust wittingly placed themselves in danger in order to fight for their freedom, then surely we should encourage our kids to take slight, what are really negligible risks, in order to speak out against injustice, should we not?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If These Walls Could Talk לו הקירות היו מדברים

I saw a disturbing film yesterday on the topic of abortion, called If These Walls Could Talk. Yet it wasn’t disturbing in the way you might assume. For those who haven’t seen it, I’ll give a synopsis:
The screenplay is actually written as a trilogy, with each story taking place in a different era, all featuring protagonists who find themselves pregnant and not wanting to be:

Claire is a widow in the 1950s who in desperation opts for a back-alley abortion after which she hemorrages and presumably dies.

Barbara is a 40-something mom of four in the 1970s. Her youngest is eight, she has just begun college, and she discovers she’s pregnant. She considers abortion, then decides to continue the pregnancy.

Chris is a college student in the 1990s who agonizes and then goes through with an abortion. [spoiler] Just as the physician is finishing the procedure, a psycho gunman bursts into the clinic and shoots the physician.

What disturbed me about the film wasn’t the fact that Claire’s kitchen looks like a scene from the Manson family as she sinks to the floor, the telephone hanging off the hook as she tries unsuccessfully to summon an ambulance. Rather, what I found disturbing is the horror of conservative backlash: The only character who had access to a safe, legal abortion without getting mobbed or firebombed was the 1970s one. If These Walls Could Talk reflects the fact that our society passed through a blip of progressiveness that lasted about a decade, a fact with which there’s no arguing regardless of one's stance on the matter.

Moreover, I refuse to use the euphemisms “pro-life” and "pro-choice”. I’m an Abortion Advocate, i.e., I believe that all three women should've aborted. As testified to by the hundreds of testimonies at I', not all women who find themselves pregnant against their wishes agonize over it; nor do I believe that having an abortion necessarily affects a woman negatively and / or for a long period of time. For that I'm grateful for the character in the middle segment who admits to having felt relieved after aborting. Hard for me to believe that relief isn't the Number One sensation felt by a woman after undergoing a safe, legal abortion. No, it will not haunt you for the rest of your days, and this needs to be heard.

Finally, I’m tired of hearing that abortion is a “very, very personal decision”. This statement has lost its meaning, if indeed it ever had any. Every decision, whether vanilla versus chocolate or whether to donate a kidney, is personal. Abortion is nothing if not political; everyone, whether pro- or anti-, must agree on this.

Veering a little off-topic here, can anyone explain to me why back-alley abortionists can't take the extra minute to wash their hands and disinfect their instruments? It's not as if it adds to their overhead. What motivates this pond scum? Money? You’ve already been paid. What skin is it off your back to swab some alcohol onto the speculum? The abortionist in the 1950s segment of If These Walls Could Talk was the one who deserved to be shot. Where are all the indignant anti-abortion voices when it comes to him and his ilk -- and they still must exist: The state of Wyoming has not a single legal abortion provider. Who do you suppose is performing abortions in Wyoming?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Take my muezzin...please! בבקשה, קחו את המאוזין שלי

I have to concede in reference to Bibi’s support of mineret-muzzling that indeed, even a broken clock shows the correct time once a day. However, what bothers me is how he argued his case: “We don’t need to be more liberal than Europe”. Does he not realize that this remark gives him away as implicitly admitting that Europe is the light unto the nations, or at least the model of civility that we all should strive to emulate? As I read his words, I thought to myself: Aha! So you do admire Europe! And you admit that liberal is a positive thing to be! Gotcha!

However, although I agree that the Moslem calls to prayer constitute noise pollution, it’s still offensive and certain unnecessary to target them specifically. We have noise pollution ordinances; why not simply enforce them in all locales? That would take care of the ultra-Orthodox and their bullhorn-fitted vans that cruise the streets for hours (apparently it's OK to pollute in God's name) blaring their appeals to dress modestly, attend a study session, or light candles. If I had the misfortune to live within hearing distance of this noise, I’d applaud any and all measures to silence it, including that inspired by the scene in the film Hair wherein George fires a rifle to silence the loudspeakers at the military base parade ground.

Same goes for Shabbat sirens, which I find paternalistic and therefore offensive. Anyone who observes the Sabbath can consult their watches, calendars, newspapers, or multiple fridge magnets for Sabbath starting and ending times, and if those fail, go outside and look at the sun, for God’s sake.

More than one talkbacker to the article proposed that Muslims install an app in their phones (or subscribe to a service) that sets off a prayer reminder replicating the muezzin, so we could do without the public calls to prayer altogether. Good idea, and let’s take it a step further: The Religious Affairs Ministry should provide this service for free, should it not? As long as this rabbi-opoly has to exist, let it serve the public for a refreshing change, and not vice versa.