Points of Views
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0202 – Points of View from Jerusalem


“All we wanted was to end the exhausting week with a dip in a spring. Legitimate. Normal… ‘Even for women’. By the time we arrived, there were two guys who wanted us to leave so they could take a dip [1]. I did not think about such controversial concepts like the ‘exclusion of women’. I believe that it is important to respect people even when it is less convenient and that this is true pluralism. I really would have left.

However, it was the tone in which they asked that was really disgusting. Like we owe them something. ‘It’s very clear that this spring is for men on Fridays,’ one of them said. There were also some unpleasant words that expressed his professional and personal opinion about us. […]

So we just went into the water. Immediately, we were insulted and cursed and people got up and left. It’s their right. We were in the water for maybe five minutes when they threw our picnic blanket into the water. When I tried to understand what the blanket was doing in the water, they also threw stones at us. Words like ‘Hell’ and ‘Blasphemy’ were thrown into the air as if the angels Michael and Gabriel, God's deputies, were standing in front of me. […]

At first all the boys who were there let them humiliate us and kept quiet. But then the two guys returned, surprisingly, with more boys and asked us to leave, at this point we were in the water for about eight minutes. They explained very nicely to us that the whole week we can be in the spring, but on Fridays it was a spring for men. I also explained to them very nicely that Friday is also our day off and that we keep Shabbat.

[…] Two more minutes passed: ten minutes in the water. An elderly man came and asked us to leave. We told him we'd been in for a long time, and in a few minutes we'd be out. He would not listen and after he screamed at us with curses that even God or the Devil wouldn't utter, this elderly man who accused us of immorality and lack of modesty, got naked in front of us, pubes and all and went into the water. At this point, we were sick of all this, so we left.

So there are a lot of extreme, controversial ideas here: Exclusion of women, violence, bullying, humiliation. But what bothers me more than anything else was the use of ‘God’. The God I believe in and love with all my heart, could not have created such a violent and offensive discourse. You want to have a dip? Go to the mikvah [2]. Is it ‘pastoral’ for you to dip in the spring? Come in the early hours when no one is there. Is it critical for you to be there on Friday afternoon? Great, this space is public and shared, there is a way to ask and there is a way to be considerate.

I am calling out to the female voices or maybe even just to the sane voices to start going out to the springs on Friday afternoon..It happened to us at the Itamar spring [3], but I also know it happens at Lifta [4], and it can happen anywhere…that's not cool. Women are fifty percent of the world's population (maybe a little more or less,) and they also want to dip in the springs on Friday afternoon, even if it's a dip for fun and splashing and not halachic immersion. By the way men: it's a custom, for God's sake, not even an obligation. God, how much we've blown things out of proportion [5]."

– Shaked Shilo in ‘Jerusalemites’ FB Group

0202 Editor’s Notes:
[1] Springs in the Jerusalem region are popular summer locations among Jerusalemites. Secular communities over the last few weeks have protested the Haredi men who have increasingly used the springs as ritual baths. The men claim they cannot immerse in places where women are present. For a previous post on this subject, see: https://goo.gl/aV5LDr
[2] Mikvah (lit. collection) is a bath used for immersion in order to become ritually pure. The Mikvah must be connected to a naturally occurring water source, in order to be fit for use according to Jewish law.
[3] Ein Itamar (Itamar Spring) is a spring in the Jerusalem Hills. The spring is named after Itamar Doron, who was killed in a terrorist attack at the spring in 1998.
[4] Lifta is a nature reserve on the outskirts of Jerusalem located on the site of a depopulated Palestinian village. The spring at Lifta is a popular summer location among Jerusalemites.
[5] Married women are obligated by Jewish law to immerse in a Mikvah after their menstrual cycle. In contrast to this, some Jewish men have a custom (which in Jewish jurisprudence is a lower level than an obligated commandment) to immerse in a Mikvah on a daily or weekly basis.

#Haredi_Jerusalem #Lifta #Religious_Coercion #Gender #Nature