Four vignettes on the godly and not-so-godly

Jun 21, 2011
*Special to asia!

First, the dog that was almost stoned to death, by holy decree.

Vignette #1: The dog that wouldn't leave

There was a near case of death-by-stoning last week.

It wasn't in Pakistan or Bangladesh or any of the usual places where incidents like this happen. It was in Jerusalem.

It didn't involve a woman accused of adultery either. It was a canine that was sentenced to death.

For several weeks, a dog was wandering around a local religious Jewish courthouse, near the ultra-orthodox neighbourhood of Mea Shearim. It was frightening visitors to the courthouse and would not be driven away.

Then, a judge recalled that 20 years ago, the court's judges cursed a insolent secular lawyer that his spirit would inhabit the body of a dog. Convinced that the dog was the reincarnation of the cursed lawyer, the court sentenced the animal to death by stoning.

According to Ynetnews, a site affliliated to the mass-circulated Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth,

"They didn't issue an official ruling, but ordered the children outside to throw stones at him in order to drive him away. They didn't think of it as cruelty to animals, but as an appropriate way to 'get back at' the spirit which entered the poor dog."

Thankfully the dog escaped. Local animal rights activists have filed a complaint with the police.

1015 "There was once a black dog just like this one. It was really a lawyer. It was, really!" (Photo from Gerhard Suster under a Creative Commons license)

Vignette #2: The player that wouldn't play

Israeli national basketballer Naama Shafir wanted to put on a t-shirt under her team jersey, so she could abide by Jewish laws and not appear with bare shoulders.

FIBA the world governing body for the sport said she couldn't, as all players of the team were required to wear identical outfits, and not all the players on the team adhered to Shafir's observances.

A compromise has now been reached in which she will be allowed to wear skin-coloured sleeves with her attire, after the decision was lambasted as being “insensitive” by Jewish groups.

Shafir who plays in the college league in the US is allowed to play with sleeves there. Special arrangements are also made for her so that she need not break with Jewish religious observances and practice on sabbath, the Jewish holy day.

Just the week before, the Iranian women's football team was banned from playing in an Olympic 2012 qualifying game, because of their attire.

The women had been dressed in a suit that comprised of a cap that covered their heads and necks.

According to the world governing body for football,

"Fifa's decision in March 2010 which permitted that players be allowed to wear a cap that covers their head to the hairline, but does not extend below the ears to cover the neck, was still applicable.


Vignette #3: The girls that couldn't release stress any other way, apparently

Four Jewish girls were arrested from an Israeli settlement in the West Bank for torching a Palestinian car. The oldest Yaska Weiss was 20, while the other three cannot be named as they are underaged. One was 17 and the other two 15.

In their defense, their lawyer Naftali Wertzbiger said, this was one way teens relieved stress nowadays.

"Police are doing their job, but welfare and prosecution officials must understand that there is frustration and rebellion here that require positive treatment. “ he advised.

“Arresting them and cuffing them will only cause identification and in increase in these crimes, which no doubt have no justification.”

The authorities believe this is part of the “price-tag”policy of the extremist religious Jewish settlers living in the Israeli- occupied West Bank. The settlers exact reprisal attacks on Palestinians, by abusing them and destroying their farmland, homes and mosques, especially in the aftermath of a crackdown on the settlers by the Israeli Army.

The settlers believe the West Bank to be an indivisible part of Israel as the land promised to the Jewish people by God.

The girls had come from the large Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba located right by the Palestinian city of Hebron, and is often a flashpoint of clashes between the two sides.

1019 An Israeli soldier watches from the rooftops of Hebron's old city, where extremist Jewish settlers have displaced Palestinian families living there. (Photo: Dan-Chyi Chua)

Vignette #4: The country that wouldn't marry them

Israel may be known for its progressive attitudes towards same-sex relations, but not for heterosexual marriages.

There are no civil or marriages in Israel, only religious ones to conducted by the Chief Rabbinate. For mixed couples who wish to marry, the non-Jewish partner will also have to convert. Thus when Israelis do not wish to have a religious marriage or be caught up in the conversion process, Cyprus  becomes their most preferred destination to tie the knot.

1016 Cyprus, where secular Israelis go to get married. (Photo: Colinscamera @ Flickr)

All that is needed is a certificate from Israel's Interior Ministry stating that the couple are single. Combine that with cheap flights and a marriage certificate that is recognised back home by the Interior Ministry, and what you get is some 1000 Israeli couples getting hitched in Cyprus every year.

In 2009, the Israeli parliament debated a bill that required the state to pay for its citizens who e compelled by religious reasons to marry abroad.

Said the minister who initiated the bill,

“We must not accept this anymore. That's why as long as the state refuses to allow its citizens to marry in their own country, it must pay the expenses incurred by the need to marry abroad.”

This last weekend saw some 154 couples marrying in Cyprus in a mass wedding. It failed in its attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest mass wedding. They had needed 170 pairs.

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi