Sunday, May 08, 2005

Romance, Religion, Kidnapping and Craigslist

Sometimes, I find myself wishing that I was born into a more religious community, where dating would be different, and I thought, easier. A community where there is less emphasis on romantic choice, and therefore more likelihood that I would be in a different stage of adulthood by now, raising my children in perfect faith within a community that shared my values, even if I never had the chance to challenge them through emotional inquiry. But being super-religious isn't all fun and games in the romance department. This story has already been circulating for a few days, but I felt the need to have it here too as part of this week's romance roundup.

The wayward son of a powerful rabbinic family kidnaps and violently abuses his teenage sister's would-be suitor to prevent an affair that violates the family's strict religious codes. The real-life tale culminated in the arrest earlier this week of the wife, daughter and son of Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, and two alleged Bedouin accomplices. The family members were suspected in the abduction and assault of a 17-year-old, ultra-Orthodox youth because they reportedly objected to his relationship with the rabbi's 18-year-old daughter, Ayala, whom he met in an Internet chat room.

"In our society, as long as people are not married ... no contact between a girl and a boy is acceptable," [another of the family's sons who was not involved in the abduction] said.

That's in Israel. But here in America, on the internet juggernaut that is the Craigslist M4W board, we have seen posts from religious people seeking sexual liaisons with people outside their community and outside their marriages. Now (hat tip: Dov Bear), a prophet of old seems to have emerged, and has taken on Craigslist as his personal shonda (source of embarrassment) to be eradicated through the time-honored technique of tokhakhah (rebuke for the purpose that the miscreant should repent). Here's an excerpt (spellings preserved, translations mine):

Aishes ish [relations with another man's wife] causes mamzeirim [bastards] in klal yisoel [klal yisroel: the Jewish people]. Cheating on one's wife is also ASUR [forbidden]! Imagine what you are doing to your children - to your families! Giluy Arayos [forbidden sexual relations] is yahareg v'al ya'avor [a sin you are commanded to die for rather than commit]! Arayos is one of the three cardinal sins - on par with muder and idolatry. This is the downfall of our society. Even if they are strictly amongst single people, it is terrible. Even if the ads are not real, they are still a terrible chilul [desecration of God's name]. Even if you think nobody knows, it is still terrible. Even if you think nobody will ever find out, besides for you being wrong, it is still terrible.

You know I'm more moderate than the people who posted both the ads and this rebuke to the people who are looking for these liaisons. But I think that what they point to is the power of the Internet to reflect things about ourselves, and even in our most religious communities, that we wouldn't cop to in real life. Married people looking for no-strings sexual relationships with other people should be working on their marriages; maybe the two people were never suited for each other anyway and only got married because of parental/communal/social pressure. ("I can't believe I'm 20, and haven't met my bashert yet!") Maybe they grew up thinking that boys were liars and girls were stupid. Or maybe the kids in question weren't fully-cooked individuals and shouldn't have committed to a relationship with someone else that was supposed to be forever while half-baked. Whether or not there's rebuke involved, the mere presence of these ads and the story about the kidnapping illustrates that life isn't always greener on the other side of the religious spectrum, and that a more restrictive and isolated lifestyle isn't always to be envied. Relationships are hard, and when it comes down to it, maybe the success of the relationship is really up to the two individuals who are trying to make it work.


Anonymous said...

Hi there.

Just came by your blog and found out that your blog name is almost as my web site: - Free Jewish dating, Jewish singles & Jewish matchmaking service

Come to see..i thing we share the same ideas.


Chutzpah said...

Uh, YaYa...I'm not understanding the I am a "couple" category. Is this to facilitate 3 ways? On second thought, don't answer that...I don't want to know!

Gatsby said...

I agree Esther. Relationships are difficult. I can see the strength in the traditional Jewish method, and I certaintly know that "modern" dating isn't perfect.
To me, it usually comes down to choice. If two people make decisions out of their own free will, they are responsible for those decisions.
I guess the problem is most of us are pretty bad at making mating decisions/
How we solve that one?? I don't know.

Needsabetterjob said...

Basically, people are too picky. It is a mirror of the job market and very similar in many respects. I have seen open positions at companies go on for months and months, when I have done the type of work they require for 20 years.
This is a sympton of something in general. A need for perfection, at least on paper. This is what happens w/ the daters, all of whom complain that they can't find the 'right one'.

If you look at so many of the marriages that end in divorce in the Orth. comm. so you will realize that it is all a gamble anyway.

Stop being so picky. Choose one mate and get a life going for yourself.

Peace to all,