Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ultra-orthodox

We live 7 minutes (by car) from Kiryat Sefer, an ultra-orthodox Jewish city. Ohad says its like going overseas and I kind of feel the same way. Before I go, I always make sure to put on a long skirt and a fairly modest top (though not down to my elbows). Things there are like here - it's the same language and mostly the same products, but it's really different too. The shops there sell things that are a lot more practical - and in bulk. You can get 5 white (identical) button-down shirts for about $25, which is great if that's all you wear - and that IS what most of the older boys and men there wear. All the time. And robes (or dressing gowns) whatever you want to call them. They're these hideous things I'd never be seen in (even in the mirror) - black velvety material, with long zippers in the front and all sorts of patterns all over them. The women wear them around the house and they're so modest (yeah, cover you from neck to toe) that they can open the door in them (as long as their heads are covered too). I guess its easier than getting dressed? But the culture there is different too. Outside one of the stores I like (my mom calls it the Israeli version of Kmart) people leave their strollers strewn all over the place (no strollers allowed in). In the mornings, people leave their babies in the strollers at the entrance and the guard at the door asks the main desk to announce on the loudspeaker if one of them is crying. I could never do that...

Generally families there are large. I mean, 4 or 5 kids is ok if you're just starting out - but if you quit there, people might wonder what went wrong. And actually, my only real conversations with ultra-orthodox people in the past few years have been mostly men, who call me and ask for advice. They're usually couples who have been married for 2 or 3 years and are either afraid to admit there may be a real problem or are embarrassed to go see a doctor (which is what I encourage them to do). The pressure, in their community, to have a baby right away is immense. My sister said that after a certain period of time, people stop asking when they're going to have a baby - if a year's gone by and she's not showing, obviously something is wrong... I wonder if they're open enough to talk about it among themselves and to get support. I know that a lot end up getting treatment (I met them in the waiting rooms when I was getting treatment).

I think of their culture as fairly primitive, which is why when my mom sent me this article about an ultra-orthodox rabbi allowing a woman (a widow) to become a surrogate mother, it knocked me out. All I could think was, WOW.

1 comment:

Sara said...

I don't know if I'm more amazed by the rabbi approving surrogacy or people leaving their babies outside of the store. What an interesting post!