Are we there yet?

I took my gals into town to buy a cell-phone. On the way back to the car, an elderly man said to my youngest daughter, “What will happen in the summer?” This comment was perhaps inspired by her spaghetti strap top. “Excuse me??” responded her big sister. No big surprises here; neither the comment nor my kids’ ability to respond is out of the ordinary. But, wait for it; here comes the surprise. Someone else joined in the conversation — a young man in a black suit and a black, velvet kippah (that was code for “I assume he’s Orthodox). “Do you want to press charges?” he asked my youngest. He’s a member of a cadre of people employed to keep the city welcome for all. “No one has the right to comment on your dress,” he declared and checked with her again if she wanted to press charges. You could have knocked me over with a velvet kippah.

We went to Ein Gedi for an overnight trip. En route, we stopped near Metzuke Dargot to go down the Dead Sea. While there, we saw a completely naked woman, naaaaked, walking in the water. A man in tie-dye waited patiently for her on the shore. We saw a soldier approaching from the road above. He was in full battle fatigues, including helmet and ceramic flak jacket. She left the water and the couple and soldier walked past each other on a path without a word. You could have knocked me over with a pinch of salt.

The Ein Gedi Youth Hostel was hosting a ninth-grade school trip. As well as watching them running around screaming en masse, I saw something new. Girls taking pictures of each other posing in pretend model style, where they changed positions every three seconds. Bam! Hand on hip and finger in mouth. Bam! Head thrown back and looking over shoulder with hair over face. Bam! Swivel the other way and look steamy. It was an enthusiastic reveling in the art of self-objectification. You could have knocked me over with a wave of nausea.

I saw “Sand Storm” at the Cinematheque, accompanied by its director, Elite Dexer. As a film all about women and women’s issues, directed by a woman, it’s a great film for International Women’s Day. It was outstanding ,as well as depressing as all hell. Beyond the themes of family honor and old world meets new raised with intelligence and sensitivity, the film begs the question: how has Israel not enforced the ban on bigamy? That’s a 70-year failure. And it begs the more general question, how is that men anywhere can still banish, imprison, control, threaten and end hope for women anywhere? It makes me feel a little knocked over. And that’s without the statistics on violence against women.

Yesterday, in a mixed group, the last person who had not yet delivered a story to the camera/class didn’t want to speak. I took her aside and invited her to overcome the fear of speaking out. She did. She told a small story with a sweet message. It was neither more important nor less than anyone else’s. That I encouraged her to speak was the most important thing I did that day.

Women. We have come a long way but we aren’t there yet.

About the Author
Helen Gottstein is a presentation training specialist and an actress. Presentation training and performances available for bookings in Hebrew and English. helengot@gmail.com
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