My favorite part of the days leading up to Yom Kippur is all the time I get to spend on forgiving people. Since my friends are generally nicer than I am, this leads to them begging my pardon for all sorts of slights they imagined committing, while in exchange, I slip in a request for them to forgive me for running over their dog. Given that I am still basking in my forgiveness afterglow, I am disturbed by the attitudes displayed by some of those quoted in a recent Times of Israel article regarding one of the participants in an Israeli reality TV show who was convicted over a decade ago of being a sex offender.
The show, called HaKfar, picks five families, and asks them to live in conditions approximating those of Israel before 1948, and sounds like an Israeli version of Survivor. The young man in question, David, is a member of the Digmi family, and had sex twelve years ago with a 13 year old girl, when he himself was 19. This is not in doubt. He was found guilty, and was sentenced to six months of community service. The girl’s family saw David featured as part of the promotional coverage for the show, and subsequently began a campaign to have his participation in the show ended.
I don’t know David from Adam. I wouldn’t hire him as a babysitter or camp counselor. I realize that the girl is traumatized from the incident, and her life has been changed irrevocably. On a personal level, that she is not willing to let this go is understandable. However, at what point do we allow people who have committed a crime back into society? From what I can tell, David has been living on the right side of the law for the last 12 years, and he has done all that was asked of him. He’s a success story, in terms of rehabilitation.
Seeing her attacker on television is likely to cause his victim pain. But at this point, David has a right to do whatever he wants, within the bounds of any restrictions placed on him as a condition of his release, and at least she can choose not to watch the show. If he became a clerk at her local Rami Levi, or if she needed a taxi and he were the driver, what would she do then, try to get him fired? As for the assertion by a Na’amat representative that reality TV stars are role models, then reality TV in general should be banned, because I wouldn’t want my kids learning from any of those people. In fact, having a public service announcement encouraging people to speak out about sexual abuse as part of the show might even help provide some much needed value instead of just empty calories.
Forcing the producers of HaKfar to cut David’s appearances from the show would say to people who have committed crimes in the past that there is no reason to try to get your life back on track, because you will always have the stigma of being a criminal, even when there is no relationship between your crime and what you are trying to accomplish in the present. To avoid the temptation of recidivism, we should treat those who have completed their sentences with an open mind, while still providing enough oversight to ensure that they do not prey upon potential victims in the future. Otherwise, we might as well start building pens in which to house them. We can choose with whom to associate in our private lives, but we should allow everyone to participate the public marketplace. The best place to show your disapproval for HaKfar’s casting decisions is by voting with your remote.