This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Human Frailty and Orthodoxy

"I understand that I am sick and needy, and I don’t want to continue to be a burden on you."
"Don’t make much effort for the ceremony, something modest with a lot of flowers, and remember that this is what I chose as best for me, and also if you say that I am selfish, I accept and understand your lack of understanding."
Esti Weinstein, 50, mother of seven, former Hasidic community member
Esti Weinstein, a formerly ultra-Orthodox woman who committed suicide in June 2016 -- Times of Israel
That she married at 17 is not such a big deal, that it was an arranged marriage, a ritual of an ultra-orthodox Jewish sect whose members are not free to act on impulse as human beings are wont to do, but are instead restrained from behaving as individuals with free will, is something else again. The rigid hierarchy and permitted customs of fundamentalists is inimical to satisfaction with life. Following such a rigid pattern is a kind of pathology where people are reduced to robotic status.

The restraints that the ultra-religious orthodoxy places on its members represent a mass psychosis, a denial of humanity, a collective agreement to exalt god by sacrificing one's individuality to a prescribed way of life where much is forbidden that represents normalcy to others not held in the thrall of groupthink and groupaction and groupfealty. It is in human nature to wish to be part of a social group, to be included, not excluded.

But the ultra-orthodox represent a very exclusive club indeed. Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholicism is that to a degree, whose sacred texts obligate the faithful to specific doctrine and precepts. Much relaxed in rigidity, however, over the centuries. Islam has become infinitely more doctrinal and rigid rather than the opposite over the past century, breeding a debased humanity that views martyrdom and death as representing the highest pinnacle of faith.

And there are others like Seventh Day Adventists and Doukhobors and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Taliban, Wahhabism and Boko Haram, to name a few, who represent religious fundamentalism. What they all have in common, it seems, is the degradation of women who are viewed as inferior and totally dependent on the whims of men who use and abuse them, while insisting through church law that they be unassuming, virginal and suppress their sexuality.

The woman quoted above left her marriage because as a female who had grown up in one of Israel's largest Hasidic sects, she found it wanting, too draining of her humanity. Her unhappy marriage and her seven children aside, she yearned for liberty. But even while establishing a loving relationship with another man, her abandonment of her marriage resulting in an absolute estrangement from six of her children though a seventh followed her out of the orthodox fold, caused her so much pain she took her life.

Before she did, she wrote a manuscript detailing many of the closed community's practices and customs. Her sect, the Gur community, restrained sex between married partners to once or twice monthly to dampen sexual cravings in favour of reaching a higher spiritual plane. On all occasions sensuality was to be avoided, and so physical contact took place only on those several monthly occasions, and nor, evidently was verbal intimacy contemplated.

The ultra-Orthodox religious groups in Israel view biblical contemplation, prayer and pious manners, not physical labour to earn a living as imperatives. While they typically have large broods, they also typically live at or below the poverty line, requiring the state intervention of welfare. Their intention is to remain separate from the rest of society, not to defile themselves by contact with the impure. Military service in Israel, compulsory for all, is rejected by them.

They represent a growing community; at present they are over ten percent of the Jewish population of Israel, and will reach 200 percent in an estimated dozen years. This is a far stretch from the secular majority of Israel, particularly far from its founding and its spirit of pioneer egalitarianism. The changing face of Israel appears, in some measure, to reflect the changing face of religion in the Middle East where fundamentalism has gained ground even as human rights' obligations have diminished.

What does distinguish Israel from all of its neighbours, however, is its dedication to human rights even within an uneasy and fraught geography where the nation lives within a history of violent military and religious attacks upon its right of existence. It cannot afford to be intolerant of the Hasidim living within its embrace; its purpose of existence, the very security and care of all Jews of all beliefs and origins mitigates against it.

Freinds and family attend the funeral of Esti Weinstein at the Yarkon cemetery in Tel Aviv, June 28, 2016. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)
Freinds and family attend the funeral of Esti Weinstein at the Yarkon cemetery in Tel Aviv, June 28, 
2016. (Avi Dishi/Flash90)

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