January 23, 2024, El Al, Bangkok, Thailand - Lod, Israel
It has been a long flight; I find an Israeli series called Shababnikim. It is about young Rabbinical students trying to find their way in life in a country where religious and secular live side by side, often in each other's face, and often with conflict and misunderstanding. There is a desire to remain separate, pure, in a religious bubble free of the downfalls of modern secular society, and yet the boys are also drawn to the secular world, its openness, its financial opportunities, its freedom. They try to straddle both societies, to enjoy the benefits of both without compromising one's values. It is a struggle I know from up close.
The closed society, living within the walls of our own community, living within our holy books, offers safety and security, but the outside world offers innovation and opportunities, new horizons and temptations unknown within the traditional community. Like a Fiddler on the roof, we try to find our balance between the two worlds without falling down.
Unknown to many outside these communities are issues that are of vital importance: Should one use the internet, laptops and cellphones? (there are many temptations available via these devices), should one even read newspapers that come from secular sources, written by non-God-fearing people? How much contact is acceptable with the "outside" modern world?
The series addresses these issues through the lives of several young men. How they address these issues will affect their future; whom they will marry, where their children will go to school, where they will live or work.
There is an episode that hit close to home; the boys are assigned a new apartment. As they wake up in the morning and open the window, they are horrified by what they see across the street - a huge billboard with a scantily clad beautiful woman lying sideways in a provocative way. One very pure young man cannot even look, it takes his thoughts to unholy places. All these young men have grown up in a society there contact between unrelated males and females is very restricted. Dates are arranged when the young people are ready for marriage. The partners are carefully researched by the respective parents, and it is all done through a professional matchmaker. There is no casual dating, there is no fooling around (in any sense of the word).
Thus, Gedalya is deeply disturbed by this image, and it gives him no rest. He cannot focus on the holy books while this image is in front of him. He wants his first intimate moment with a woman to be on his wedding night, and until then he must keep his thoughts pure. This woman across the street is driving him crazy.
That night the boys attend a lecture outside their academy, a fiery speaker called Rabbi Hagbi. I clearly recognize him as an imitation of the real-life Rabbi Amnon Yishak. The rabbi speaks of how one must burn the evil from within our hearts, how we must battle No Holds Barred against evil in our selvs and in our society. Gedalya takes this to heart and decides to literally burn the billboard with the shameless woman who his sexually harassing him. He explains to his friend how evil this is; how this woman is daily causing thousands of men to sin in their minds with impure thoughts, how this evil must be removed from our midst. That night they burn the billboard.
Later on, they are suspected and called in for questioning. Gedalya at first denies the accusation but then, being so pure, confesses totally and takes responsibility but...he wants to explain his actions to the female police officer who is interrogating him. In fact, when he first faced her, he requested to be interrogated by a male officer as she was quite attractive. His request was refused, and he then asked her to at least fully button her shirt, this too was denied.
In life we are placed in these situations, against our will, but more on that soon.
Gedalya says...you try not to think about it but it is always there. You guard yourself, you try to protect yourself, but then you feel that it is attacking you from every angle, whenever you go, it is there, so I ask you quite simply, what is my chance to win?
I simply could not continue like this; I could not continue being harassed anymore. The police officer looks stunned, "YOU are the one being harassed?!"
Gedalya: "Yes! I am the one being harassed. You know I am going in the street, and these days the streets are filled with women who dress like...(He cannot say ...dress as they want to dress, and you try, you try not to look, you really try but what can you do? So you guard yourself but then you feel you are being attacked from every angle, wherever you go it is always there, so I ask you, what is my chance to win here?"
Police officer: Gedalya, this is not a battle, you do not have to win.
Gedalya: It is not a battle? I want to win because I want to get married.
She looks stunned, speechless.
Gedalya continues, I want to come clean and pure to a girl.
They look at each other in a moment of understanding. The barrier has been opened, there is a breakthrough. Finally, two human beings are looking at each other, with honestly and sympathy.
He continues: You asked me about matchmaking (marriage dating), when I meet the right one, I don't want to come to her like this (dirty mind), I want to come to her "clean". He offers an analogy as to how this woman's husband would feel about other man gawking at her, how she would feel being looked at in that way. His words are moving, the viewer can see that he is succeeding in explaining his world to a secular police officer.
Gedalya asks for a pen to write and sign his confession. He just wanted to be understood. I can relate.
The police officer rips up the documents and dismisses him. Later on, while the other police officers on the case are convinced that these guys are guilty, she convinces them that they are looking in the wrong direction. Let it go, these are not our guys, they are not capable of pulling this off.
To me, this is a brilliant and beautiful moment in the show. What good would come from arresting such a sweet and innocent young man? It would ruin his life and only lead to worse decisions. He learned his lesson, he will never vandalize property again, he did it all for the purest of reasons, and she the police woman understands this. Nothing good will come of him going to prison, only bad. In a world where logic prevails she makes the correct decision. She understands him and respects him and wants to see him succeed in life. She finally sees the situation from his perspective, she is able to understand "the other", a person who comes from a different world while physically occupying the same space as her, parallel worlds on the same earthly plain.
Now let us look at the billboard with the provocative advertisement from two perspectives; the man and woman. Ladies first.
The model is dressed and is posing in a very provocative way. Why? What is the ultimate goal? one word answer: Money. The goal is to make money and the means are secondary. I am assuming that women are the target as it is female clothing being sold, and yet, I guess the message is - if you want to look attractive (sexy, provocative) this is the outfit for you. The goal is all the matters, a sale. The side effect, countless men provoked and aroused when they are simply out to do their business, does not matter. All is fair for the golden dollar.
Now how can we view this from the female perspective? Is this woman being honored in any way? Not at all. No one knows her name, no one knows anything about her personality, characteristics, likes or dislikes, intellectual accomplishments, and no one cares. She is just an object, a way to make money.
From the male perspective: As Gedalya points out, you are outside going to the bank, or to work, minding your own business, thinking about things that need to be taken care of and then, boom, you see this advertisement and you have no defense. You are in a battle that you cannot win. You try to control your thoughts, but you are programmed otherwise, it is an ongoing battle.
Lets' think of it this way, in today's hypersensitive culture, if a man at work even so much as compliments a woman on her appearance, Lord help him! He is up for charges of sexual harassment and certain dismissal from his job. But here, everywhere are posters and images of women designed to be provocative, hitting men below the belt. As Gedalya says, this is sexual harassment indeed. How can we win this battle? and is it a battle? Yes, indeed it is as the policewoman finally understands. This is daily nonstop harassment that we pass over in silence, and in most Western countries it only gets worse from year to year.
But things have always been this way, no?
When my dear mother passed away and I had the difficult task of going through her house, I found a scrap album that was given to my grandmother, Mina (Wilhelmena) Kinsbruner Katz, of blessed memory. It was put together by ...I don't know but it was about her career as owner of a dress shop in Brooklyn, New York starting in 1950. I had never seen this before. In it were clips advertising the store opening, major events, sales and so on. Thinking back and comparing it to the billboard in our TV show, I thought of the difference. My grandmother came to social functions and held fashion shows. This benefited her and the organizers of the event. For them it was a free, personal, preview, of the next season, the latest in ladies' fashion. The ladies at these luncheons enjoyed the show. This also drew women to the events. And my grandmother was able to advertise her wares. The participants enjoyed the fashion show, the organizers had a big-name fashion show to attract participants, and I am sure my grandmother gained new customers.
Now think about that: She was not pushing anything on anyone. She was not being provocative. She was presenting the new seasons' dresses to a group of women who were very interested in seeing this. When people came to her store they came on their own accord. If a woman wanted a dress, she came to the store and my grandmother did her best to provide a service, to offer the woman the outfit that suited her best. She never tried to make a "sale". In fact she would ask the woman for what occasion she was purchasing the dress. My grandmother had an incredible memory for such things, and she might answer, "For the Cohen - Goldstein wedding? Oh no, I cannot allow you to buy this, another woman who is attending that wedding has already purchased the same outfit (and a size smaller!), you don't want to walk in and see that another woman is wearing the same outfit as you. Allow me to suggest something else."
It was about providing a service and making an honest living at the same time. Nothing was being pushed in your face.
Now let us apply this to Krav Maga.
I have found that paid advertising does not work. Period. On the one occasion where I tried it, it brought in all the wrong kinds of people. My students have had the same experience. Think of it as my grandmothers' dress shop; It someone is interested in purchasing a dress, they will go to a dress shop. At that point it is the job of the seller to do their job and provide the appropriate outfit. With Krav Maga, those who are interested, will come looking for us. At that point we will do our best to provide the best possible service.
We will not post advertisements with provocative looking women. We will not try to "sell" you anything. We provide a valuable service that you need, even if you do not know it. We believe in class, not trash. You will not see women in camouflage bikinis and great figures punching the bag. You will only see what is real, truthful, honest and pure. This is what we are all about.
You are in charge, not your urges which the advertiser is trying to provoke. If you are interested, you go shopping. When you need food, you will go to the store. We need a culture where people buy based on need, not based on being manipulated by clever professional advertising agents.
We exist, we have developed an outstanding system of self-defense, we want you to know about it, be aware of it. And if you are interested, we will answer your questions and offer all the help we can. Pure, simple, honest.
Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.
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