Showing all posts tagged jewish:

Btzelem / tattoos

I don’t have any tattoos.
For a long time, I’ve wanted one of a jellyfish. gorgeous shading, some white ink work and pastel highlights, on my left thigh with tentacles flowing down the leg. I was originally inspired by Haeckel’s gorgeous illustrations and others of that era, but when I found out about his connection to eugenics my thoughts on inking his work on my body changed. Still, it might happen someday, and there are equally skilled and less problematic biological illustrators whose work could be adapted to body art.
When I read Bitch Planet, I knew I needed a non-compliant tattoo. Not solid black, either outline or patterned or in a color, somewhere on my body. The stories speak to something in my core, something about being different, wrong, incorrect-for-society, correct-for-me.
And now, as of this June, Pride month of 2018, I know I need a tattoo in hebrew. I know there’s a variety of responses people have to hebrew tattoos, most of them disparaging, but I know I need this like I know I need the noncompliant symbol, and I want this like I want the jellyfish.
One word: b’tzelem. We were each of us made in G-d’s image, btzelem elokim. People who don’t quite feel at home in their bodies often speak of how their tattoos make their bodies feel their own; how they feel at home in their bodies again.
I am trans. I am nonbinary. I am still working out what, for me, transition means; but one component is that things that make me feel more comfortable and whole, more as myself, bring me closer—not farther—from being in G’d’s image.
As transition brings our inner and outer selves closer together, we come to a nearer approximation of G-d’s image. As we use art to reclaim our bodies, we take a step closer, not farther. As we choose how to change our meat suits, our external selves, to fit in some but not other times, in some ways but not others, to fit the parts of ourselves we can and only compromise where we have to, to have control over whether and when to have a break between self-image and external perception—each of these struggles and decisions can be viewed through the lens of g-dly image.
I need a b’tzelem tattoo mirroring my noncompliant tattoo. One for the tradition I was born into, and one for the world I am forced to fit in; one to remind me where I am headed and another to remind me about my bullheaded roots. I am made in G’d’s image and I am non-compliant.

israel, temple, moshiach

Judaism has been diasporic, temple-less and landless, for almost 2000 years. We have flourished and spread, been attacked and survived, built homes and made homelands, participated in global atrocities as aggressor and as victim. We are nomadically alive, full guests and participants in others’ homes and countries, sometimes enough to make them our own.

One of my ancestral homes is Ioannina, more recently than anywhere in the levant and possibly for more generations. I don’t speak the language there, either, and the jewish community has faded enough to nearly die—but the connection many jews feel to jerusalem, that I felt once to Israel, that is the connection I feel when I walked through the old market and the roman fort’s walls, when my father pointed out the house my yiayia was born in, when i looked over the mountain and ate fish from the lake. Diaspora homes are our homes. Diaspora communities are our communities.

Other peoples live in the holy land, now. If we want to live in peace, Israel must loosen their grip on being first and foremost a Jewish homeland. Israel must step back from violence.

Israel—jerusalem, in particular, but not exclusively—holds deep history for jews and for other people. Deep, complicated history. It’s skipped around and whitewashed in different directions, impossible to detangle one solid historical truth for multiple narratives of owning and belonging, colonizers giving their unjustly seized land as a gift to survivors of a genocide so that we can regroup and move forwards—to act as badly, or worse, as the original colonizers did. This is not necessary, nor is it justice.

Now, there is a mosque on the temple mount. I was raised to see this as an insult, another religion’s stealing of our holy site, leaving us to pray at the one remaining wall. (neatly segmented into a large men’s section and a small women’s section, requiring respectable dress and behavior to the frummest common denominator, locking out participation from nonbinary jews or those who prefer to not pray in gender-segregated environments, greatly restricting behaviors available to those in the women’s section in the first place.) Those Others pray their Wrong Bad prayers atop it, where Our temple once was. In the days of the Second Temple, when it was destroyed, Someone built a BadWrongPagan place of worship on there to spite us, and look—still, someone else has a BadWrong Place Of Worship there. This is, at best, incorrect. To begin: they pray in a different language, with different customs, but to our same G-d. They built a mosque there as the place is holy for them as well—they did not build a place of worship to spite us or to keep us out.

We are supposed to want and move towards a rebuilding of the temple so that the moshiach will come. Why? Two holy buildings trying to occupy the same space is moshiach's problem to handle once they get here.

Until then, I want to look at where we have come from and understand and appreciate it. I want to pray for peace and the arrival of the moshiach, but I want my steps towards that to be in the form of tikkun olam and introspection, improving myself and helping others, tweaking structures so fewer are harmed, building community and in the process repairing the world.