Krav Maga and the Red Shoe
By Moshe Katz

Arizona, USA, February 2010

I don't care much for fashion, it is simply not part of my life. In fact I have always considered it a very frivolous, shallow matter. Of all human activities, the question of clothing is one of the least important.

However, I was on the plane and something in the US Airways magazine caught my eye; it said "Must Read" (literally) and it said "Clothes matter for many reasons". OK, so to pass the time I started to read.

A woman was writing about a red high-heeled shoe, a shoe from the past. She did not know whom it belonged to. She tried to imagine the woman who wore it and under what circumstances she bought it. And then she writes, "The Red high-heeled shoe exists. You can see it for yourself if you travel to Poland, drive a couple of hours west from Krakow, and visit the Auschwitz museum."

Linda Grant describes that this was one of the countless shoes left behind by Jewish victims of Nazi Germany.

"So someone arrived at Auschwitz wearing, or carrying in her luggage, red high-heeled shoes, and this shoe is all that is left of her. When I visited Auschwitz, I was transfixed by this shoe, for it reminded me that the victims were once people so lighthearted that they went into a shop and bought red high-heeled footwear, the least sensible kind of shoe you can wear.

They were human, fallibly human, and like us; they took pleasure and delight in the trivial joys of fashion. This anonymous, murdered woman, who died before I was born, would surely have bought her shoes in the same spirit that I bought mine."

Wow, suddenly a frivolous article about high-heeled shoes becomes a testimony to the humanity of our people, a reminder that the people whom the Nazis viewed as sub-human were in fact very human. The high-heeled red shoes, of all things, becomes their statement of humanity, their silent protest against the evil dictator, the F├╝hrer and his evil associates.

I thought about Hadassa, an Israeli female soldier I used to take shopping. She came home on leave from the IDF in military uniform, carrying an M-16, sleeves rolled up, tanned from endless hours in the field commanding her troops, and she would tell me, "Now Moshe, what I need today is blush, eye shadow and mascara."

I laughed, she wondered why. Here she is, miss G.I. bad ass Israeli Jane, and she needs all this girly make up stuff.

Now I get it. Like the single red high-heeled shoe in Auschwitz, the only remains of a murdered woman, Hadassa needed this makeup. It was a testament to her humanity. Despite the fact that our enemies put us in a position that all our young people, even our girls, must serve for years in the military, they still retain their humanity. Hadassa must serve and carry an M-16 but she is still a beautiful young woman, she still cares about her appearance, she needs mascara.

All the attacks and all the guns and bombs cannot take away the fact that she is a young woman. And yes, the frivolous make up, just like the impractical high-heeled red shoe, is a very important testament to her, and our, humanity. Our enemies cannot take that away from us. From the frivolous world of fashion I have learned a valuable lesson.

Hadassa represents what we might call the "Warrior/Beauty", the delicate balance between our national obligations and our individuality. I am reminded of the British girls in World War Two who drew lines on their legs to make it look as if they were wearing the stockings they could no longer obtain during war time. Why think of stockings during war time? Because it shows our humanity, it is a form of a spiritual protest; I still matter, I am still human, you cannot reduce me to anything less.

From the years 67 until about 73 nearly 1,000 Jews held out in the Judean desert, at the Masada fortress, against the thousands of well armed soldiers of the Roman 10th legion. If you visit the museum at the site today you will find, that among the remains of these 967 Jews was makeup kits. Yes, there were clear signs of women's make up utensils. Holding out against the cruel Romans, stuck for years on top of an isolated desert mountain, the women of Judea still cared about their appearance and applied make-up.

In life we must find our balance. Krav Maga is about self protection and protection of others, and is vitally important. However, if we forget to enjoy life, to be a little bit frivolous from time to time, than we have lost part of our humanity.

In the encounter with Eliyahu the prophet we hear about the thunder and lightning and the powerful winds. And then we hear about the "still, small, voice", and we learn that "God is in the still small voice." That high-heeled red shoe in Auschwitz is one form of the still small voice, the protest against racism and brutality. The female soldier needing make up is a protest against endless war, suicide bombers and rockets launched against our civilian population. The shoes and the makeup are part of our struggle for humanity.

IKI Arizona