Monday, January 31, 2011

What's going on?!

Hey World,

So when I don't write for a while sometimes it's because so much stuff happens that I get overwhelmed thinking about how to write it all and adequately express myself and what is happening.

So instead I will give some snippets...

First off a lot of people have been asking me about the whole situation that is going on in Egypt and how it is affecting Israel/me. First off don't worry I am a ok and I am safe. Israel is a very interesting place to be in times of crisis, people here react in a totally different way to anywhere else I have been. The thing about Israel is that it is often either involved in or very close to some kind of crisis, so if everyone got upset and scared every time something like this happened, no one would ever do anything. Yes that is an exaggeration, but seriously, people just keep on living their lives. It's not that they ignore what is going on, but it's not productive to obsess over it.

When I was in Israel for the first time (in 2004) I remember encountering this attitude. I was on a reform Jewish teen summer trip. For part of the trip we were travelling with some Israelis our age. I remember we were all getting ready to go on this dance cruise thing when we heard on the news that some Israeli soldiers had been killed. I don't remember more context than that. Weasked one of the Israelis who was staying in my room, how can you continue to get ready and go dance when something like this just happened? She replied that you have to keep living your life, you can't just stop every time something bad happens, because that's not living. This experience has definitely stuck with me, and when I was in Israel again in 2006 during the second Lebanon war, I also could feel this attitude. People kept living, because if you don't than we ultimately lose.

The one thing I will say that I have noticed that has changed is right at my intersection. I live on a big intersection which is very close to where the prime minister lives. Recently there has been a lot of police presence (more than usual). Also what has happened a bunch of times (which I haven't experienced before now) is that the intersection gets blocked off and a motorcade or two will drive through (with sirens blaring). This has happened now 3 or 4 times in the past two days, and those are only the times I have witnessed. Someone "important" is probably here or something, but I am pretty sure it is all connected.

So in the Israeli spirit, more about my week. Yesterday was my last day teaching my Talmud class with this group of kids. I am pretty sure I have already said how much I've enjoyed it, and I will say it again. It was a great experience, and I am really happy that I will be able to continue to teach (and even have some of the same kids) for the rest of the year. They even made me a thank you card with individual notes in it, which was super sweet. It was cool to hear that they enjoyed the class and my enthusiasm. One person ever wrote that I showed them Jewish texts could be interesting. I'm honored!!

Last Wednesday in Israel seminar we dealt with the topic of women in Israel. Just like in America (but perhaps a bit worse) there still aren't equal opportunities for men and women, as much as we like to say there is. Don't say feminism isn't necessary anymore, it really still is and in so many ways. I could go off on a rant, but I won't, mostly because I don't have the energy right now.

One session I went to was about this organization called mabui satum, which means dead end or blocked way or something like that. This organization helps women who are stuck in marriage. In Israel there is no such thing as civil marriage or civil divorce, the government has given total control of marriage/divorce to the religious (aka orthodox and in most cases ultra-orthodox) courts. This makes for all sorts of issues, but the one this organization deals with is women whose husband refuses to give them a "get." A get is a Jewish divorce document that the man MUST physically give to his wife in order for them to get a divorce. So if a man wants to torture his wife (a lot of these women are stuck in abusive marriages, so the abuser will continue to abuse in any way that he can) he can refuse to give her a get. In jewish law there are consequences for men who refuse to give their wives a get, if a man refuses and continues to refuse the community can ignore him/not let him in until he gives his wife a get, and in extreme situations the men of the community are allowed to use violence to convince the man to give his wife the get.

This doesn't happen so often anymore. The rabbinic court system does have certain penalties they can give to the husband if he refuses, like putting him in jail or taking his drivers license, but they don't use these very often. Instead the rabbinic courts (which are all men because women aren't allowed to serve in those roles) let the husband refuse to give the get and leave the woman trapped because she can't get remarried and she can't leave because of issues of custody with the children, and it can also be psychologically tormenting to still feel trapped in a horrible relationship. So what this organization does is gives the women support and even a lawyer who will help argue the case in front of the rabbinic court.

There is a movie all about this that I urge you to watch, it is called mikudeshet. It's in Hebrew, but it has subtitles. It really captures the disgusting and tragic circumstances that so many women are suseptable to. The woman could be very religious or totally secular, it doesn't matter. If her husband wants to be an a$$hole, he can often times get away with it for an extended period of time. In the civil courts this is not the case, but the civil courts only have so much power in these matters.

For example in the movie there was one woman trying to get a divorce and her husband kept refusing to even show up to court. The rabbis totally let him get away with it because the husband said he was busy with his children. HE was living with another woman and was having children with her, which was totally fine, while she was getting screwed. Just watch the movie!! Here is the imdb link

What else...I had a nice shabbat, as usual. I got bananagrams while I was in the US, so I played with some people over shabbat. Great game, and very shabbat friendly too!

I'm sure more has happened, but I think this is enough for now.

Peace (especially here in the middle east!)


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