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July 25, 2014 / 27 Tammuz, 5774
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‘Geh Avek’ (‘Go Away’)

       The question that is on many people’s mind these days is why the organizers of the international “Pride Parade” chose the holy city of Jerusalem as the venue for their exhibition. There are so many other cities on this planet that would be better suited for the festivities that they have planned – and where their activities would be accommodated and even welcomed. Why davka choose a place seeped in a tradition that totally rejects the lifestyle they are celebrating and whose residents in the great majority will be extremely antagonized and anguished by their presence and antics?

 

         I’m not by any means a psychologist, but their behavior triggered a memory of a long ago incident that I observed, and therefore I have my own theory as to why they are doing what they are doing.

 

         Many years ago, when I was 19, I spent a summer in Israel and have many interesting memories of that visit, but one sticks out to this day since it revealed a fascinating aspect of human nature.

 

         It was a sweltering Tisha BeAv and it seemed that every space at the Kotel was taken. There was a sea of humanity on both sides of the mechitza and all were occupied doing the same thing – praying.

 

         However, out of the corner of my eye I saw something that was different from the activity around me, causing me to take a second look. It was a bare-headed man who somehow had found a spot, perhaps on a nearby ledge that made him conspicuous – at least I noticed him. But what had captured my interest was that he was happily munching on a large slice of watermelon and being quite public about it.

 

         I have to admit that I was impressed. He was being quite ingenious. How better to show contempt for your religion and the beliefs of thousands of its adherents, how better to “rub their faces in it” than by eating refreshing, thirst-quenching watermelon on a hot summer’s fast day?

 

         The question that begs to be asked is – why did this obviously secular Jew deliberately eat his snack in full view of observant Jews keeping to themselves and mourning the anniversary of the destruction of the Holy Temple by fasting and praying? Why not just eat at home, as usual? He could do “his thing” privately, just like the religious people were doing theirs.

 

         My hunch is that on a psychological level he couldn’t, because, as the saying goes, “the best defense is a good offense.” Take this to the extreme and the offense becomes offensive. You can see this kind of behavior in children. When a child, for example, is chided for grabbing a toy from his playmate, his reaction is to toddle over and hit him. He’s trying to make the point that what he is doing is so OK, so right to that he will do more of it.

 

         This secular Jew followed this dictum and dealt with his defensiveness by going on the offensive – a self-serving form of denial that enables someone to “save face” and legitimize or whitewash one’s questionable actions or beliefs.

 

         Which leads to the next question that begs to be asked – why was this secular Jew being defensive? In the privacy of his home, there was no one to castigate and criticize him for eating and drinking on Tisha BeAv. With his doors closed and the curtains drawn, there was no one to make him feel that he was doing anything wrong.

 

         Except for himself. Deep inside him, a silent voice was telling him that he was doing something sinful. The pintele Yid – the spark of yiddishkeit that is buried in a Jew’s psyche was making him feel uncomfortable about his actions. His soul was making him feel guilty – albeit on a subconscious level which made him feel defensive, resulting in his offensive – and ultimately obnoxious behavior.

 

         There is no doubt that the spark of decency that resides in each human being is shouting out to the organizers of “The Parade” to put a stop to what many consider abominable behavior – and that is why they are so driven and so adamant to see its actualization on the sacred streets of Jerusalem. It’s not enough to indulge in immoral behavior in the privacy of their homes but they have to, out of pure spite, publicly “eat their watermelon,” fuelled by an internal guilt that they desperately are trying to extinguish.

 

         After all – the best defense is to be offensive.

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