Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What can I do? Am I my brother's keeper?

Yom chamishi, 21 Adar 5772.

There's this couple I know.  I don't like to talk about them.

He beats the kids.  She knows about it.  But she wants to keep up appearances, because it really, really matters to her what the neighbors think of her and the kids.

I feel that it's my civic responsibility to get the word out, so that maybe somebody will stop him.

She's been my friend for years.  But quite frankly, she is beginning to disgust me a little.  I mean, it's her kids, for crying out loud!

She tells me that he's trying, that he doesn't mean to hurt them, that he really wants everything to be normal for everyone.  He says he never hits them without provocation.  I guess that is what makes it hard for me to believe anything he says.  Because on the one hand, he says he wants to be a normal family -- at least, that's what he tries to convince the neighbors he wants -- but then he says that it's all the kids' fault.

I overheard a conversation he had with some of his cronies.  He really thinks the children need to be taught a lesson.  He really doesn't have any remorse.

But she is the one who breaks my heart.  I don't honestly expect anything from him.  He's a jerk.  (He was abused as a kid for years; and he takes it out on his kids, and makes excuses.)  But she says she loves her children; and yet she has watched this thing happening to them, year after year, for almost a decade.  And she keeps putting on nice dresses, and going out in public, pretending that life is good... while her kids are at home, hiding under the bed.

@%@%@%@%@%@%@%@%@%@%@%@%@

Now I must apologize, dear reader.  I am assuming you are as angry as me, and think this woman should get some sense, and that she should divorce this guy, and protect her kids.  Right?


The husband is Gaza.  The wife is the Israeli government.  And the beaten children really are mostly children.  They are the citizens of southern Israel, who have been bombed routinely for the last eight-plus years, with more than 200 bombs being fired at them in less than a week, purely for the "crime" of being Jews, in the so-called wrong place.
Citizens of Ashdod running to shelters when siren sounds ~ Photo credit: Jim Hollander

Many of these children will reach bar and bat mitzvah without a memory of a time that didn't include terror, running to bomb shelters with only 15 seconds to spare, school closed randomly because bombs are falling nearby, the stress on their families, the shame of wetting their beds long after the acceptable age...

I feel like that child beater's enabling wife's friend.  I love my country.  I have a long-standing respect for Israel.  She's been my friend for years...

But I must not be deaf to the booms and the bombs and the sirens just a few kilometers to the south of me.  I have to look at myself in the mirror every day; and I can't allow those children to continue being beaten with my complicit silence.

19 comments:

Laura Ben-David said...

Okay, I admit it -- i spent the first chunk of the article trying to think which family I'd been oblivious to re: the abuse... But you grabbed me, and it was a great analogy. And once you put it that way, you're absolutely right.

treppenwitz said...

Whoa! Great analogy!

Evey said...

So we know who the bad guy is. The question is what can we do about it?

Evey

Miriam said...

Ruti, I was crying as I was reading. A wonderful comparison...

You are so talented.......
Miriam

Ima2seven said...

Today in one of my very spare quiet moments, I had a momentary flash of desire to write a book "Israel: A Mother's Perspective". It is as if you read my mind.

This is a really, excellent piece. Thank you for writing it. I promise to share it - with everyone.

Batya said...

Ruti, absolutely brilliant!!!

Varda Meyers Epstein said...

Very powerful. I wish you had posted this to the Times so it would get greater exposure. I know, I know. It's hard to decide where to place something...

But I am left thinking the following and I'd love to hear your thoughts about this:

In the analogy you paint for us, one could conceivably make a phone call and salve the conscience--to a social worker, to the police, to the husband (you can threaten to call the social welfare people or the cops), and a simple phone call would remove that louse from his home. But this problem can't be solved with a phone call or even at the voting ballot. It takes weapons. It takes diplomacy. It takes money. It takes changing world attitudes. It takes Divine Providence.

Devorah Horev said...

Your writing skills are amazing! Thank you for your interpertation of life down here in the South.

Yechiel Luterman said...

Before I add/reply to Varda's comment, allow me to add to everyone's kudos on a piece very well written. You have succeeded in effectively provoking contemplation. I would however take issue with the analogy itself. It's difficult to view the angle from which Israel could be seen as the wife of Gaza. Moreover, even if "she" could be so viewed, what would the analogous "divorce" mean? Before you revealed the true identity of your players, I just wanted to find the father, drag him out into the town square and beat the crap out of him.

That having been said, I believe that Varda, perhaps inadvertantly, revealed the biggest true solution.

As a neighbour of the family, my impulse to give the father a good beating was not right. Some things need to be left in the hands of the proper authority.

In this case, if a call is to be made to deliver this mizkena of a wife and her poor children from their tribulations, it is indeed a call that we can and must all make. As the Rambam reminds us, the #1 principle of our faith is recognizing and declaring - to ourselves, to our enemies in Gaza and to everyone in the world - that the Master of the Universe, the Holy One Blessed is He, is running the whole show.

Let's all collectively and individually give Him a call. Let Him know that we're ready to finally acknowledge that there is only one Seat of Power in the world so that He can finally do away with this cloak we call the physical universe so that, in turn, we can all bask in the ultimate unified glory of His Divine Light.

rutimizrachi said...

Laura: Like music, writing only works when the audience plays along. Thank you.

Trep: I learned from the master. ;-) This is still one of the greatest blog posts I've ever read: http://bogieworks.blogs.com/treppenwitz/2006/07/thanks_i_needed.html

Evey: I wish I had the power, with one little blog post, to shame our government into putting southern Israel's health and safety before world opinion. I doubt it's going to be a happening thing, pre-Moshiach; but we have to try, don't we?

Miriam: Thank you for feeling it. That's the first step.

Ima & Batya: Approval from fellow bloggers means the world!

Varda: I did think about it; but I kind of like just being "heimish" in the Times blog.

Divine Providence sounds about right to me. My first prayer is that our government will remember that its primary function is not to make nice with world powers, but to protect its citizens.

Devorah: It is not enough. But at least I feel better speaking about you than just wringing my hands on your behalf.

Yechiel: Fair enough. I toyed with more accurate analogies; but they got too cumbersome. But I am pleased that your reaction was strong even if not, as you pointed out, exactly the best choice. Whether Gaza is the husband or the cousin or just a creepy neighbor, my main focus was the wife, and that she is living in some dream world, rather than protecting her children adequately.

I surely cannot argue with your solution, which was correctly and beautifully stated. May we share good news.

Mrs. S. said...

Very powerful! Thanks for expressing what so many of us are feeling.

May we soon share besurot tovot, yeshu'ot, and nechamot!

The 2 Spies said...

Brilliant! May I share this on our blog?
Hadassah

rutimizrachi said...

Hadassah: I would be honored!

Mrs. S: Amen! Thank you for reading, and for sharing that you go through this frustration, too.

Roxanne said...

A powerful perspective. On my part continuing to pray for your deliverance is a must.

The 2 Spies said...

I have often thought that Israel acts like the abused woman. The big catch is~ when the wife has had enough, takes a shotgun and blows her husband to pieces~ the courts (the world) will condemn her as guilty and hang her....

rutimizrachi said...

Roxanne: Thank you so much for your prayers!

The 2 Spies: The world has been trying to hang this particular wife for a great many years. Fortunately, Hashem runs the world, and will not allow it. So the only thing for us to do is that which is right in His eyes.

Anonymous said...

Ok! I know of a similar case and the bashings affected the children into adulthood then the powerful man grieving for his misjudgement he died unesxpectedly and the wife still loves him but other than divorce what other options are there when children are at stake?

Sabra said...

What's the good of just writing about it .. what is actually being DONE?? Not that I don't like your post or admire your skill .. but skill when not put into action is ineffective .. the only thing that counts is ACTION!!

Ruti Mizrachi said...

Sabra: What have you in mind?