Sunday, January 16, 2011

There's Something Wrong in Modiin

Long time readers of this blog know that the Muqata Blog and the Israeli City of Modiin don't see eye to eye on many issues.

Be it their (alleged) call for Merriful Christmas Carolling in their public parks, to forbidding Jewish students from donning tefillin, to facing the wrath of the Modiin Moderator (though in all fairness, I have found many community list moderators are just as fanatical and vengeful), Modiin is a brash city that doesn't hide from controversy.

The latest one to have caught my eye is an ad campaign going on in the Modiin shopping mall. Ads for the "Lee Cooper" jeans store advertise their jean-clad mannequins with signs proudly stating; "Cut the Bulls***"

(actual photo below, with expletive covered up
by Jameel's Trademark smiley).

I'm not surprised by a vulgar language ad campaign, as its rather sadly typical. What I found sadly amusing was the back and forth on the Modiin email list, and the attacks on the people who dared to question the ad placement in a public mall.

Comments included:

I think the point is that everyone has a different definition of what is "distasteful".We should all "live and let live" unless it is a matter of life and death, no? Many of us came from the intolerance of Jerusalem to a more tolerant Modiin (hopefully).

Can you all stop being such prudes and concentrate on more important issues that can make this a better place!!

Your children and others are hearing worse at school, and the more importance you place on it the more forbidden all this is the more they use these stupid words - that is all they are however affronted you are by them they are just words. [Jameel adds: of course, words aren't just words" when dealing with "incitement", but that's another story]

Freedom of speech and ideas are paramount in a democratic society. Don't infringe on my speech and I won't infringe on yours.

The bottom line is that a loud cacophony of Modiin's secular society believes there's absolutely nothing wrong with exposing children to vulgarity, and they honestly believe that any opposition to it is based solely on religious objections.

Foul-mouthed language is crass, crude and poor manners. Modiin's residents "left the intolerance of Jerusalem" so they can freely expose Modiin children to foul language?

As opposed to more civilized Western societies who know how to value "proper" speech, Modiin would rather expose children to everything and talk like a toilet.

Since sensitivity to exposing children to foul language makes one a "prude," why stop there? Without any yardstick for decent behaviour (and challenging it makes you a religious, fanatical prude), what's to stop Lee Cooper from showing unclothed models as well?

I'm sure the enlightened Modiin hedonists would find this example from a USA Public School, "religious coercion" -- its just a shame they are too wrapped in "targeting the religious" than to realize how embarrassing (and foul) their own behaviour is.

ALBANY -- South Albany High School to students: Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will get you suspended.

South is cracking down on cursing this year, to the tune of suspending students any time their, um, stuff hits the fan.

Principal Brent Belveal, now one month into his first year at South Albany, said staff members told him shortly after he joined the administration that profanity was a campus concern.

The new policy: Mention a potentially off-color word -- that one that rhymes with "witch," say -- and you'll probably get a warning. Stronger language means stronger measures.

"If they drop an "F-bomb," which is one people really get offended by, that's going to be a suspension," Belveal said.

Belveal met with each class in the first few weeks of school to outline the enforcement policy. Part of South Albany's job is to train students for future job situations, he said, and most employers don't tolerate foul language.

The bottom line: "We're trying to help you to learn how to be productive employees." --AP

I suggest that next year's Modiin Christmas carols be sung in front of this Lee Cooper store.

Note to all the Modiin residents who braved the email attacks, and tried to unsuccessfully explain why foul language doesn't belong in a mall ad campaign: you have my sincerest sympathies.

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Commenter Abbi said...

You're asking for it now, Jameel. :)

Leah Goodman said...

I think it should be within the purview of free expression to place an actual pile of bull...dung in front of the store.. no?

Anonymous said...

I wonder to what extent the lack of sensitivity is because the curse is in English.

Commenter Abbi said...

Anon- israelis are really insensitive to the nuances of English foul language. I really don't think you'll ever see a Hebrew ad with the word חרה in it.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anon: On the Modiin list, the people against it stated it was offensive in English. So why should that be a reason to be insensitive?

Are they encouraging their kids to have poor manners in English? Many of the wacked out secularists who attacked those who dared to challenge the ads...are simply Boorish anglos.

ProfK said...

Cursing and all those four-letter words are a sign of lack of vocabulary (and quite possibly intelligence as well). They are used when the speaker can't think of or doesn't know a more appropriate and more exact word. Weird to think that in the US, where English is the first language, such a sign would never appear in public in a store window. The uproar would be immediate. Anyone who says not frankly doesn't know what they are talking about. That this appeared in an Israeli store window--uneducated and uncouth owners perhaps?

PC Cop said...

Commenter Abbi: israelis are really insensitive to the nuances of English foul language.

That comment is incredibly judgemental and extremely offensive.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why you think the mannequins are so offensive, they covered up the dirty parts with smiley faces.

Commenter Abbi said...

Joe, give it up. You're pathetic.

On the issue of Modiin and this whole fracas, my take is that the city was planned specifically as a "secular" city, whatever that means. To the extent that when they zoned the neighborhoods for public spaces, they severely underestimated the religious population that would eventually move in and there is now a shortage of space for shuls and the mamadim are bursting. (The new mamad in Buchman opened up with 18 classrooms- too bad there were actually 22 classes in the school; a new Mamlachti school also opened up in the neighborhood simultaneously and they share it with a Yozma school, which I think is a Reform version version of Tali).

I'm not really sure what the government was planning when they decided this would be a "secular" city. That middle class Israelis wouldn't be attracted to the large homes and location and not move right in? Were they going to legislate the secularness of the city? It's really a mystery to me. Basically, the facts on the ground are much different than what was promised 15 years ago and it pisses people off. To the extent that they start making ridiculous arguments to attack the religious just to prove that they're different.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

PC Cop: *yawn* get over it already. You're on the wrong thread.

Anonymous; I covered up the words with smiley faces!

Abbi: Why should a "secular" city have foul mouthed language in the mall? Does "secular" equal "poor mannered" and "low brow"?

Modiin = Trailer Trash Talk Capital of Israel?

Commenter Abbi said...

Jameel- honestly, I don't know. That what was so ridiculous about this debate. But that's what people were essentially arguing- any attempt at "proscribing" free speech by criticizing foul language was seen as an "anti-secular diatribe" (literally- that's what they called it!). Any attempt to deny this, to insist that being offended by this language has nothing to do with religion, fell on deaf ears.
Regardless, it clearly brought up a lot of anti-religious feelings, that a lot of people seem to schlep around with them. They claim they were promised a bill of goods (a secular city) and it's not being delivered, disregarding the fact that the religious community is overwhelmingly DL, not charedi and it's quite easy to dialogue with us, if they so desire.

PC Cop said...

Jameel: *yawn* get over it already. You're on the wrong thread.

"Wrong thread"?! Who are you to judge the rightness or wrongness of the thread upon which I choose to be? Because of your white male hetero ego, you think you are entitled to infringe upon on my rights by trying to disempower me.

JoeSettler said...

Leave me out of it. I comment under my own name when needed. There are apparently plenty of people that like getting your goat.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

For all those interested, PC Cop is NOT JoeSettler. I don't know who he/she is, but its NOT Joe.

Abbi: I find it incredibly disturbing that some people are so obtuse, that they consider criticizing foul language as an "anti-secular diatribe."

They are truly fundamentalist secularists...or the secular Hizbollah.

Commenter Abbi said...

They are people that are so convinced of the righteousness of their cause that they can't be bothered to listen to at least an explanation of another person's position.

In Ranana, there were people who liked to stir up trouble on both sides of the divide. There was a small Sephardi community on the North side of town that tried to have their street closed on Shabbat and that caused an uproar. On the other side, when the local Kollel (tiny by most standards) expanded into an old bank next door in a shopping center, secularists declared a Charedi takeover. On the whole, though, I think Ranana had the whole diversity thing down pretty well. The center of town was closed on shabbat, but there were stores and restaurants open on the edge of town, which didn't bother me at all (it was actually very convenient to be able to pick up last minute things like medicine or a grape juice at the last minute, like in Chu'l)

I think there will always be people who like to stir up trouble and can't be bothered to listen to reason. I do think it's more of a challenge living in a mixed community than living in a completely religious/completely secular town.

Joe, sorry for the false accusation.

PC Cop said...

JoeSettler: Leave me out of it. I comment under my own name when needed.

You've outdone yourself. What a typically insensitive and judgmental comment. I should have expected as much from you.

Anonymous said...

Normally I would agree with you, but this time I don't.
I just made Aliyah, and one thing I really enjoy is the fact that they don't recognize "bad words" as being such.

If the sign was in Hebrew, I'd agree with you, but everyone offended in Modiin should leave the Galut behind them and embrace the Ivrit.

Commenter Abbi said...

Huh? We should only be offended in Hebrew but not in English? That also doesn't make sense.

I can assure you, Jameel has been here for 20 years and I've been here for 10. I'm quite sure we've "let go of Galut."

Jameel @ The Muqata said...


1. Its poor manners to display vulgar language -- in ANY language, in a storefront. Doing so shows a lack of basic banners and decency, regardless if they owner know the nuance of what's written.

2. And why SHOULDN'T the ads be in Hebrew in Modiin? If anything, this is a sign of Galut entering Modiin, and that idiots feel stupid phrases in English in their store windows is a great way to advertise and entice people to buy their products.

3. Don't be fooled, they know exactly what the expression means.

Anonymous said...

Point 2 should be the main point of your post! :)

@Abbi: It seems that some people have been in Israel for over 60 years, yet they still behave as though they and the people around them are living in Europe!

Anonymous said...

I do think it's more of a challenge living in a mixed community than living in a completely religious/completely secular town.

oy. welcome to ramat bet shemesh....

Anonymous said...

"I do think it's more of a challenge living in a mixed community than living in a completely religious/completely secular town"

I think it just depends where you live.. there are places up north where all sorts of people co-exist nicely.

Commenter Abbi said...

Anon 6:56. I think you're still high on the jet fumes from your NBN flight. Come back to us after you've been living here for 10 or 20 years.

Anon 8:07. Yes, RBS is in a category of its own.

9:08. Agreed. Of course it depends, I gave the example of Ranaana, where they seemed to have found compromise solutions that help everyone. I think that is the key.

Nachum said...

Look, I'm not saying it's right, but it's a simple fact that Israelis are pretty loose with their Anglo-Saxonisms. It's a bit a shock to hear very religious teenage girls casually speak of "fakaps" (say it out loud), but they do.

A few months back, when a guy was arrested for killing a family, Yediot wrote out his statement in English and English letters on their front cover: "I'm a bad motherf***er, I killed them all." They didn't use asterisks. Front page of the most popular paper in Israel.

A remember years ago when a chicken chain got in trouble for doing something similar on their billboards. Face it, Israelis don't speak English and thus may not get the nuances. Nor does their audience, except for the relatively low number of Anglos.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...


1. In this case, the nuances were explained, and it was deemed irrelevant by those who demand "absolute free speech at all costs"

2. Many of the foul language advocates are Anglos.

Nachum said...

1. Of course, once it's explained, it should be changed, especially in an area with lots of English speakers (but really anywhere). No argument there. Want to change it? Boycott, or at least have enough people state they won't shop there. Capitalism is wonderful for solving problems.

2. No one should be advocating this, certainly not English speakers. I was more explaining the background than defending it.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Nachum: That was my primary point -- that people there are ADVOCATING this language as an expression of free speech.

Their defense was, "Modiin was founded as a Secular City -- how dare you try and change our secular [foul mouthed] character."


Newbabybob said...

This blog post is ridiculous. How on earth can you extrapolate anything about the character of an entire city from a few nudniks who get into foolish arguments on an email list? Most of the secular Jews I know here in Modiin are decent people with good values who have much better things to do with their time than get into arguments with strangers over silly issues. Perhaps after this you could read the talkbacks on a Jerusalem Post article and then write a blog post based on your "research" about how all the Jews in Israel are either left wing fanatics, right wing fanatics, weirdos, or messianic Jews.

jonathan becker said...

i'm not an "advocate" for "foul" language, though i do appreciate the freedom to use it when i feel it's appropriate/necessary to get across what i'm trying to say. however:

when i first started commenting on this blog, i was using plenty of it, and jameel, in his wisdom, seeing that i wasn't using profanity for it's own sake, sent me a personal email requesting that i cease and desist. he didn't ask me to stop commenting, he merely pointed out his red lines, and the fact this is somehow a "family oriented" blog, read by minors (something i have yet to see evidence of, btw, but i believe him- it's HIS blog, after all) and i immediately replied that i would be happy to comply with his request, because i think the blog itself is too valuable to disassociate myself from merely because of some language issues that, with a bit of effort (you're welcome, jameel :)) i was/am able to deal with. i took no offence at his request, and, in the same way that i don't smoke in my own house ( though i am a smoker) when i have guests who object, i think small gestures such as this contribute to people getting along with each other- an issue of great concern to me.

so, even though i myself am not offended by "foul" language, and in fact find it useful, i don't use it here, and in the same way i don't see why it would be such a big deal for shop owners in modiin- a place with many religious (ok, uptight)- residents to show some respect for their neighbors/customers, and not rub the noses of their neighbors/customers in their own perhaps strongly felt (and even, perhaps, correct) ideas about "free speech", or whatever point they're trying to make.

live and let live is a powerful idea, from both sides of this dividing line. but if a compromise can be made without sacrificing one's basic principles, than it should be made. this is also part of "live and let live". just because you have the right, legal or otherwise, to exercize a "freedom", doesn't mean you HAVE to. if you do, and do so "davka", than you're an..uh..a-hole. i have every right to smoke in my own living room whenever i want, so i must ask myself: would i prefer to make an issue of this right, or get along with my friends and neighbors and make them feel welcome and comfortable in my home? the answer seems pretty obvious to me, but the shopowners in modiin seem less concerned with good neighborly relations- something shopowners, in particular, should be even MORE sensitive to.

is it possible (i didn't see this addressed in the post) that they are actually INCREASING their business by taking this combative stance? because if so, than, well, what can you expect? it's business. but if not, they're just being jerks, and i agree with jameel.

if they ARE increasing their business, and doing nothing illegal, than maybe it's jameel who should be doing some cheshbon nefesh re:live and let live. but somehow i doubt this is the case.

fwiw: protecting kids from "foul language" is, imo, a pointless and useless exercize, especially if they have internet access as he implied in his original request to me. but it's not for me to decide what he likes or doesn't like and, if i can do it withought compromising my basic principles, i will do (and have done) whatever i can to accomodate him, and would advise anyone to behave this way (kant's "categorical imperitive", for the philosophically educated among the readers here), including, and especially the shopowners of modiin.

Elli from Modi'in (one of several) said...

I disagree with Jameel's statement that: "I'm not surprised by a vulgar language ad campaign, as its rather sadly typical."

On the contrary, even a cursory look at the store window in question reveals that it's an atypical ad campaign. All the faces are covered up, and the point of the display (if I'm reading it properly) is that you don't have to be a model or just look like one to be interested in fashion. It's punctuated with the slogan in question, which makes the whole display more provocative than "unintelligent" as one reader suggested.

Is it an appropriate ad campaign for a public mall in Israel? Maybe yes, maybe no -- maybe the customers of Lee Cooper Jeans should make that decision with their wallets...

Question: why is this any more or any less offensive than the lingerie mannequins displayed in nearly every mall in Israel?

Leah Goodman said...

@Elli from Modi'in: How are you supposed to sell lingerie if you don't have any mannequins? And even very conservative people might have need for lingerie.

(To be honest, though, I would like to see displays of the less flashy lingerie rather than the raciest... When my teenage stepson is around, we always make sure to distract him while he's walking by the window of the lingerie shop at the mall)

Elli from Modi'in (one of several) said...

@Leah - There are as many ways to sell lingerie as there are to sell jeans. Lee Cooper is just more creative in how it does it...

[full disclosure -- I don't shop there or ever intend to shop there, but I am NOT outraged. There are more important things to be outraged by!!!!!]

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