I attended a fascinating discussion last night called “Piercing, Tattooing, and Cutting: Traditional Sources Meet a Modern-Day Trend.” It was held in Merkaz Edna and led by Sarah Halevi, a psychotherapist from Efrat.
It was basically a review of the connections and implications of self-marking from sociological, psychological and halachic vantages. While I didn’t necessary learn that much news, I did get a trip off hearing these issues discussed in a somewhat-public forum. The small audience was made up of a pierced girl who was probably younger than me, a girl around my age who is a social worker, two concerned moms (religious) and a very concerned set of parents (religious, somewhat naive).
Halevi summed something up that was definitely news in the way that I’ve never heard it put so simply before. She said she once had a student who explained to her the difference between American teenagers and Israeli teenagers when it comes to self-marking, drugs, etc.
American teenagers want to להכנס (come in) while Israel i teenagers want to לצאת (go out). The Americans are coming from a life filled with numbness and materialism; it’s empty and they need to prick themselves in order to feel alive. The Israelis live in a land of denial; they are expected to buck up and move on when a fellow student is shot and killed on the highway or an older sibling loses a limb in the army. They don’t get a chance to wallow or escape, so they do anything to remove themselves from the situation.
It can go either way, of course, depending on your family and social status, but in a general sense it was interesting. Definitely food for thought for the anxious parents present, who by the way, were all Anglos living in Israel… Maybe that has something to do with it?