The scene, disgusting. Teenage boys – cleared on the criminal charge of gang rape – arriving at Ben Gurion Airport Sunday evening, celebrating their release from Cypriot custody. Saying they regretted nothing, according to the Times of Israel report, they opened champagne bottles and chanted “Am Yisrael Chai” (the people of Israel lives) as well as “the Brit is a whore.” One of the adult men at the airport celebration called the boys real men, using the Hebrew word “gever” to describe them.
The teens were released after a 19-year-old British woman revised her testimony, saying that the sex was consensual, explaining that she filed the complaint because she felt humiliated. The teen boys filmed the act without her consent, then booted her from the hotel room.
Real men do not take advantage of vulnerable women. Real men do not film themselves engaging in group sex. Real men do not use women and discard them like inanimate object sex toys. Real men do not call the women with whom they’ve been intimate — with whom they’ve had the privilege to be intimate — “whores.” Real men do not celebrate their son’s sexual crimes.
There are crimes against the law. And there are crimes against humanity. Make no mistake, this was a crime against humanity, no matter what the law says, no matter if the sex was consensual, no matter how many songs are sung or bottles of champagne opened.
Disgusting. Religious boys being portrayed as heroes by religious men because they got away with the sexual mistreatment of a young woman. Disgusting. Singing an anthem of the Jewish people to celebrate the humiliation of a teenager.
As men, it’s time to say clearly that we do not condone any sex — or any other behavior — that humiliates women, whether it’s consensual or not. As men, it’s time to teach our boys that a higher moral law must guide our conduct. That we are watching. As a community of men, we must take full responsibility for individual acts of violence against women and for a culture that systemically abuses and takes advantage of women.
Consensual. Irrelevant. A loophole. When it comes to our behavior as men, what another might accept — or what we might get away with in secret or under the law — does not absolve participation. It’s a short slide down a moral ladder from gang sexual humiliation of a woman to becoming the next Jeffery Epstein.
Where are the men? Where are the men who — at the airport — would have clopped those boys on the head and told them that they are a moral disgrace and a disappointment to true masculinity? Where are the men who stand for integrity and accountability, the men who would have required each of these boys to do acts of community service and to learn about healthy sexuality?
The global ManKind Project has launched a campaign in response to the #MeToo movement called #IamResponsible. Each man is asked to make this pledge:
“As men, we are committed to individual and collective evolution, we take responsibility for creating the society we want to live in and share for the generations to come. We are responsible for the GOLD and the SHADOW of masculinity, for the gentleness, fierce caring, and protection, AND for the abuse, violence, and domination. We are responsible as creators and as role models. We are responsible as victims and as perpetrators. We recognize the pervasive systemic factors that promote abuse of power and teach harmful gender roles to both boys and girls.”
A small group of men in Jerusalem, Rehovot and Tel Aviv have been working for the past four years to bring ManKind Project to Israel. We are religious and secular, Olim and Sabarim, dropping our labels and our masks to address our common issues as men.
MKPIsrael has already held two small international gatherings of men, men who strive to co-create a new way of being as men. Our gatherings have brought together men from the US, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Germany, Switzerland and Israel, sharing our vulnerability and our power. We have two active groups meeting in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. We’re planning a major gathering in Israel for 2020.
So far, throughout the world, about 70,000 men have participated in our gatherings, known as the New Warrior Training Adventure. Sometimes their wives or girlfriends suggest participation. Sometimes their therapists. Sometimes the criminal justice system. But, most often, men come to us by word-of-mouth, because they’re attracted to the energy of other members of MKP.
We’d like to have 48 hours with those boys and their fathers, 48 hours with them in the company of men from around the world who know the difference between aggression and power, the difference between excuses and accountability, the difference between being a ‘gever’ and being a ‘mensch.’
If you’re interested in learning more, contact us via Facebook or our web page. Regardless, men, take the pledge. You are, I am, we are responsible for our treatment of others — boys, girls, women, men, everyone — and for our care of this world.