Roaches and practices

It’s been a very busy week. We landed in Israel just a week ago and since then it seems we have had a month full of experiences… not the least of which was having the exterminator come to rid us of a tiny problem with roaches. Or so I thought. Because when he opened the manholes in our garden (we are blessed with 4) he found entire cities of roaches inside. In fact, we are not sure, but they may have been whole countries as we heard whispers of a draft charter and of stationing a joint force in my dairy sink. I began to wonder if might really does make right. I mean we all know that they will outlive us all (or so the urban legend tells us) but is it possible they have a well-developed press? Could we be talking really negative coverage of this large-scale killing? Maybe we should just box them up and send them off to our Chinese friends. They would have a productive use for them… but think of the import duty…

What’s been occupying my thoughts has been this phenomenon so well presented by A Mother in Israel. Briefly, there is a woman who has been convincing other Jewish women that modesty is the most important value and that to be modest, you must wear multiple layers of skirts, tops, capes, and scarves and that you must additionally cover your face. Some women who are her followers have left one eye uncovered, but many have even covered both eyes and have a child lead them when they go out of the house.

This is destructive on so many levels that it seems almost trivial to talk about them.

There’s the cult aspect- one enlightened leader who teaches that they are right and everyone else is wrong- that rebuke from others is only a proof of how right they are.

There’s the attitude toward men. Apparently in their cult the belief is that men can’t control themselves and that if one sees a woman’s face, he will be driven to think about her (and possibly act on it too) as a sexual object. I think this is insulting to men. Further, when their husbands have objected to such stringencies (I would say “nonsense”) they work very hard not only to convince them that it is right, but they want their husbands to REQUIRE them to dress that way!

There’s the aspect of family closeness and warmth. These women are using massive amount of insulation to keep them from interacting with their husbands and children.

There’s, of course, the aspect of perverting the teachings of the rabbis over centuries and the issue of NOT adding to what is prescribed in the Torah.

And, more frightening that anything else: I have witnessed over the years the growing restrictions that some ultra-Orthodox Jews put upon themselves. One group will come up with a new stringency and within a few months, other groups have adopted it not willing to cede the holiness battle to another group. I worry that what now is clearly the lunatic fringe might just someday become the norm.

and then how will outsiders distinguish us from the Taliban?

Of course there are plenty of observant Jews (and among them a sizable number of ultra-Orthodox Jews) who will not accept this as normative, but still it is frightening and worrisome if you are, like me, concerned with Jewish survival.

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