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Unbecoming Behavior of the Daughters of Israel

By Tamar Yonah
4/25/2007, 12:00 AM

This 'California Girl' (me) is not a prude.  I grew up in the land of sun and fun.  There is a time and place for being care-free and then a time for using your brains.  What I saw taking place in downtown Jerusalem this last week really was not only embarrassing, but worrying.

University Tuition Demo
T. Yonah

It was Wednesday, and I was at one of the busiest meeting places in Jerusalem,  "Zion Square".  It's the place where the busiest street in Jerusalem (Jaffa Street) hooks up with a pedestrian mall.  I went there to meet family who were visiting from California.

Our university students need help. They need to use their brains, not their bodies.
The first things I noticed, when arriving at the square, were drums and music which filled my ears. Now, I love Ben Yehuda Street which has become this pedestrian mall.  It was a place where I spent much time when I was single. It is hip and has a diverse population which gives just the right spice to the normal myriad of shoppers and cafe goers.  I frequently see immigrants from Russia playing violins, American and British travelers with guitars, fire juggling Israeli youth, older, former opera singers, and even artists selling funky  jewelry in the plaza.  The street bustles with intersting people, sometimes even foreigners who dress in togas and think they are the Messiah, but it's anchored into reality by the regular Jerusalemites who fill the area having lunch and doing business. 

What mostly got my attention on this day though, aside from hearing loud drumming, was the crowd of people standing around watching something besides the impromptu band there.  It was the daughters of Israel circling around in erotic Biblical abandon style dancing.  Sorry to be so grotesque in my description, but that is what it was, and that is why there was a crowd of young and old men snapping away with their cameras.  I am not showing you the more provocative pictures, but you will notice that the dancers are almost entirely female, and the on-lookers, almost entirely males.

University Demo - Jslm
T. Yonah

The reason these women were dancing was of course obvious....  it was a student demonstration against a proposed hike in university tuitions.  The two go together, don't they?  Angry students who want an education, and dancing in skin tight clothing, gyrating  in a very public square.  They were part of a nationwide organization representing university students who launched an open-ended boycott of classes, in an effort to force the government to reduce tuition and increase the budget for higher education.  The students were upset about a possible hike in tuition. A pledge to lower tuition fees at Israeli universities by 50 percent was made by a previous government headed by PM Ehud Barak in 2001.
It never was fulfilled.

Education has suffered a substantial cut in its budget the last few years, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Education Minister Yuli Tamir and Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson have recently appointed  "The Shochat Committee"  to possibly make even more cuts, and raise tuitions.  I can understand why the students were upset but they can garner the public's sympathy, if done in the proper manner.  How about instead bringing foldable tables and studying outside with  signs saying they have no money to afford a formal education?  Or how about them standing in a line taking turns reading out loud letters of how they want to better their lives and enter the professional fields, but can't do it if they have to pay extra tuition fees?

I've been to a zillion demonstrations, for a myriad of valid reasons.  Abandoned dancing was never our choice when trying to get our point across to the public.  The dancing of these 'daughters of Israel' didn't get their point across either. It was more a seduction show, than a serious display of the Israeli students' plight. In fact, if someone didn't know Hebrew, of which there were many passing through this area, then the reason for the demonstration wouldn't even have been understood. 

I failed to see why these students protested in this way.  It actually turned off someone like me who thinks that one shouldn't have to be rich in order to be able to afford to get higher education.   In addition to their very un-professional and adolescent display, they had taped pictures of the face of Ehud Olmert onto the plaza floor, where they had students and passers by stepping and trouncing on the Prime Minister. 

Students place photo of PM Olmert on ground where people step on.
T. Yonah

I couldn't help but think, if this would have been a demonstration by anyone on the right wing, it would be all over the news... "Settlers Trample the Prime Minister" or "Yeshiva Students Incite to Violence on P.M." The Left would be having a hey-day about it.
I saw one student holding the same photo of Prime Minsiter Ehud Olmert, and publicly crumble it up in her hands in protest.  I couldn't help but think, if this would have been a demonstration by anyone on the right wing, it would be all over the news...  "Settlers Trample the Prime Minister" or "Yeshiva Students Incite to Violence on P.M."   The Left would be having a hey-day about it.  Not a word though when it is done by the secular university students, the future leaders of our country.

And yet, even this fact doesn't strike that much of a chord with me, but what really hurt me was the provocative dancing in a public thoroughfare by our young female students .  Our 'daughters of Israel'  were dancing with arms flailing, high leg kicks and hips gyrating (not shown in photo). They reminded me of the Biblical story of when the Jews were in the desert and the Midianite women came to entice the Princes of Israel to perversity.  Have our children totally lost their dignity?  Do they even realize that they have become like the wanton nations of the world and adopted their values?  Do they really think that this is a proper way to hold a protest for a legitimate complaint?  Our university students need help. They need to use their brains, not their bodies.   

And finally, if this is what our universities churn out, perhaps we should re-think our support for these campuses.  Perhaps we need to fund instead, an injection of proper values and professional and dignified behavior for our future lawmakers, teachers and entrepreneurs.