Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

February 24, 2005

No, it wasn’t really the kissing scene

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:28 pm

When I first saw this headline on Drudge:

Oscar-nominee Portman infuriates religious Jews over kiss scene

I thought, gee, this is an actress who’s done nude scenes, and they object to the kissing scene? What kinds of prudes are these “religious Jews”? Which is, no doubt, the impression the headline-writer, and perhaps the article-writer, wanted to create. However, when you actually read the article, it’s not quite that simple:

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Hollywood star Natalie Portman, nominated for a best supporting actress award at this month’s Academy Awards, stirred a scandal over a kissing scene by Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall — the most sacred spot in Judaism, the top-selling Israeli daily said.

But a kissing scene with co-actor Aki Avni in a car park next to the Wailing Wall infuriated religious Jews praying at the site, who slammed the smooch as an act of “lewdness” before chasing the pair and the crew off the set.

The paper said director Amos Gitai had not asked for permission prior to shooting the scene, but reached a compromise after the incident that he and his crew could come back to the site at a later hour.

AHA! So it wasn’t the kissing scene per se that was objectionable, it was a kissing scene filmed at a holy site without permission.

That’s entirely different. See, Jews — even religious Jews — aren’t opposed to kissing as such, especially between people who are married (to each other! get your mind out of the gutter!), but there is a time and a place for everything. There are always people praying at that spot and Judaism places a high value on concentration during prayer, and such concentration is not exactly enhanced by the presence of an unauthorized film crew, let alone one filming a scene containing a very famous actress engaging behavior not exactly appropriate to that location.

I doubt the response would have been much different if the film crew had shown up without permission and started filming a kissing scene (or any other scene) in the Sistine Chapel. Of course, if they’d done that in Mecca, the reaction probably would have been much different — they would have been arrested by the mutawwaeen (Saudi religious police), unless they got stoned to death first. If you don’t believe me, click here, here, here, and if you are of strong stomach here, and if you are of really strong stomach, here.

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