Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Portraying the Wrong Picture

The news story now making the rounds (as in here and here and here) is about how certain newspapers in Israel photoshopped the women out of the news photo of the new Israeli Cabinet.

The fact is that in some religious circles, portraying a woman in a photograph is considered immodest. The newspapers at issue here are published by and for such segments of the population, therefore, they do not publish photographs which portray women. In fact, some have been known to insist that all photographs of people, even of males, are prohibited.

This posting shall not now get into the issues of whether pixelating or airbrushing out the women out from the group photo is or is not more journalistically ethical than rearranging the positions of the entire group so as to exclude the women, or whether it would or would not be better to not publish the photo at all.

What this post WILL address is the implication, in news stories such as the one at issue, that those Jewish people who eschew photographs of women are somehow "more religious" than those who do not.

Imprimis, I detest the use of the term "ultraorthodox" to describe any Jewish person. The use of the "U" word serves only to fragment the Jewish people, and to subject those of us who adhere to the Torah commandments to ridicule.

There are many groups of religious Jews who, for many generations, chose to stay isolated to one extent or another from society at large. Even when contact and communication could not be avoided, such groups have retained costume and custom which differs from the general norm. They are, in a word, insular. They have always been around, but in today's world of rapid transportation and communication, these groups now are noticed by more and more people who, even twenty years ago, would have been oblivious to their existence. Many of their practices are based more upon group traditions than upon any mandate from the Torah.

I have no particular quarrel with such groups; indeed, I regularly interact with many to one extent or another. And I read several publications whose intended readership is such groups [N.B. The Israeli "Yated Ne'eman" mentioned in the story officially split from the American publication of the same title a number of years ago; let us say that they now are divorced but they still sleep together.]. Such newspapers -- and their readerships -- have the right to decide which photographs will or will not be published in their pages.

As for my religious observance, I daven (pray) three times each day, keep the Sabbath and the dietary laws, and, in a few days, will observe the Passover. For the record, I personally have no religious issues with photographs of women who are decently clad. And, not that it really, really matters, but I wear a kippah and my wife covers her hair with a wig or a snood. Those who happen to wear the black hats but who are sex offenders, tax cheats, womanizers, or even ordinary murderers may well be more insular than I am, but they are not more religious!

Do not confuse insularity with religiousity!

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