Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Veil of Roses

Another book I received as a gift not long ago is "A Veil of Roses", by Laura Fitzgerald. It tells the story of Tamila, a young Iranian woman who gets a visa to the USA and plans to stay there through the means of finding a traditional Iranian husband to marry her.

There is a lot of talk in the book about the oppression of Iran vs. the liberty of America; as it appears, liberty is in walking around with one's hair uncovered, wearing a bikini at a mixed beach, and free mixing of men and women. I had to laugh at times while I read, because so many of the freedoms that are portrayed in such a glorious way in the book, are precisely things I choose not to do, even though I could.

I cover my hair, even though no one would look twice if I didn't. I don't go to mixed beaches, even though it is perfectly legal. I embrace a multitude of "restrictions" which come with the life of an Orthodox Jewish woman, and I'm happy with my choices. I suppose this is the key word here. These are my choices. No one came and forced a head scarf on my hair, or made me stop shaking hands with men.

Another thing I found funny in the book was an idolization of romantic love as a basis for a good marriage. You know, after reading so many stories that start with sweep-me-off-my-feet romance and end with marriage, I would dearly love to know what becomes of those marriages after a few years. Oh wait, I do know: at least half of them fall apart. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe in marriages based purely on calculated convenience. But I do believe there's more to compatibility in marriage than just romance.

After reading "A Veil of Roses", I asked my husband whether he would like an Orthodox Jewish regime in Israel. His reply was very wise, I think, and I couldn't define it better myself: it would be wonderful to have a government made entirely of religious Jews, as opposed to what we have today, but on an individual basis, no one should be forced to be religious. I can think of no surer way to make a religion or a way of life hated than forcing it on any and everyone.

At the bottom line, I am grateful. Grateful for living in a country where I can feel safe and accepted just being who I am; in a country where nearly anyone, as different from each other as they might be, can say the same. That's one of the great things about Israel. The society is divided and each sector views another as weird, but on the whole, each weird is somehow normal.


Laura Ashley said...

Very insightful thoughts from your husband. No, I don't every think a theocracy is a good idea. Religion should not be forced.

There are issues where you and your husband tend to differ from the majority of other Orthodox Jews right? (i.e Homeschooling) In instances like that, it is good that you have freedom to choose to live the way you want.

It seems there are forces here in the US that want to make this a "Christian nation". (i.e prayer in schools, prayers in public meetings, etc...) I don't agree with that. Everyone should be free to choose their own prayers and pray in their own way on their own.

The goverment and religion shouldn't mixed.

Anonymous said...

The United States was a Judeo/Christian nation, like it or not. Morals were taught, see the McGuffey Readers, prayers and references to Divine Providence, the Creator were found in our founding documents, see the Declaration of Independence and some of the speeches and prayers of our greatest Presidents. Unfortunately, it was in 1947 that the term of "separation of church and state" came about. This was against the intent of the founders of our country. They intended to have no national religion, to prevent a Theocracy. Everyone was free to worship as they chose. For further clarification on religion in America and original intent please read George Washington's Farewell Address.
I would not say that everyone must be Christian, but I would say that it has been detrimental to our society to have removed a basic moral foundation from our daily lives, see the 10 Commandments.

Moira said...

It is a great thing that you have chosen to live this lifestyle.

But it is even a greater thing that you do have the choice, Mrs. T.
This is the real privilegue! Even I agree with many of your worldviews we should never forget that it is a great thing to live in an open society where choice is possible.

Look to the Muslim countries like the Emirates where a woman is punished in a barbaric way for not wearing a veil. This is how a country looks without the liberty which is often diminished by conservatives as a degenerated immoral culture.
The God designed dominion of husbands can have a real ugly face, too.

Anna Cotton said...

I think the issue is that the goverment shouldn't be making laws saying it's illegal to pray in schools or illegal to pray at public meetings. It should be a person's choice, not mandated one way or the other by the goverment.

There are extremists who would seek to impose their personal beliefs on everyone.

The US was founded by people seeking relief from religious persecution.

I understand that prayer can make certain people uncomfortable. If it isn't harming anyone or inflamatory, why make laws to stop it?

More time, money and energy should be spent on things that matter more, for instance eradicating poverty or ending prostitution (especially forced or child prostitution).

How many millions of US dollars are spent in the US by organizations fighting over something that shouldn't be an issue but a personal choice?

eliza said...

What a lovely and thoughtful post!

I am so looking forward to visiting Israel again if I have the chance.

Michelle at #!/usr/bin/mom said...

I absolutely agree with your husband. I would be happy in a country where all government offices were filled by righteous, God-fearing people, and all laws and government programs were prayerfully created by people who were genuinely trying to follow God. Yet I would oppose any law aimed at preventing the individual from choosing and following his own religious beliefs.

Government should be blind to religion, and it cuts both ways. No one should be made to pray, fast, or worship, nor prevented from praying, fasting, or worshiping. Public displays and activities that are otherwise unacceptable (like, say, public nudity) shouldn't be allowed just because they are religious in nature, but otherwise acceptable public displays and activities (like a memorial to fallen soldiers on government land) should not be forbidden just because they are religious. People should be free to vote and carry out their public and political lives as informed by their religious beliefs, or by their lack of belief without persecution. Most importantly, parents should have the right to pass on their religious beliefs to their children without interference from the government -- whether that means raising their children with strict observance to their religion, teaching their children to be atheists, or exposing their children to all religions and giving them a choice.

Laura Ashley said...

It should not be illegal to pray in schools or in public meetings.

Teachers and officials should not be leading the prayers in a government school or meetings. People and groups of people should be free to gather and pray on their own time but not as part of the official meeting or school time.

I fully support separation of church and state. The state should not control religions. Religions should not influence the state.

Take for example Protestants and Catholics. They are very different. They will never agree on many things. You can't have a "Christian nation"- you would have to choose Protestant or Catholic.

Jo said...

The Australian government follows the Westminster System of government (the British system) where there must be a separation between state and church. This is to stop religion (any religion) creating law - the role of Parliament. This means in our public schools there is no prayers, however schools can have a Christian class and children can attend if they so wish. We don't have a Prayer day as in the USA but we do enjoy the Christian holidays of Easter and Christmas.

It would be nice to have a parliament made up of Christians - however you would get Christians with a mixed bag of views, some more extreme than others - and they would disagree as the current ones do.

Star said...

Oh we are so different, you and I! I read your post with interest but the feelings it engendered in me were that you are hiding. Why do you cover your hair? What possible purpose does that serve? Didn't God give women beautiful hair to show it off? I cannot believe he intended it to be hidden under a scarf all day. How ridiculous! No, you are hiding, hiding from reality. You are hiding from the attentions of men and that is not normal to me, at any rate. Women are the flowers of the field. They should be seen and admired, not hidden away.
Some day, when you are old and grey and your hair is thin and wispy, you will wish that it grew long and thick and glossy again and that all the world could see it. (Just my opinion)
Blessings, Star

Anonymous said...

I think the key is really that we have the choice and free will. I agree that it is wonderful you have chosen your said lifestyle, but I hope you would never hope to see it as a mandate. Being a homemaker is a wonderful thing, but I hope even most homemakers would not wish to see women confined to their homes and denied education and/or jobs.

Mrs. Anna T said...


You asked:

"Why do you cover your hair? What possible purpose does that serve? Didn't God give women beautiful hair to show it off?"

First off, I suggest you browse my blog for this subject, as I have covered it extensively; second, God *did* give me beautiful hair to show off. BUT, only to my husband, an arrangement I find very fair and wise.

Why would I want any man but my husband to look at me and find me beautiful? What purpose would that serve, except perhaps making another man covet his brother's wife?

You see women as flowers of the field. I see women as secret gardens, to be kept and cherished, not displayed for everyone to ogle.

Narges said...

*Anna could you please publish this “corrected”, “edited” version? The previous had some typos which I corrected.*

I'm an Iranian woman (Shia/ Muslim) currently living in Iran and I must say I don't agree with some parts of your post. I think that what you wrote roughly means the separation of religion (church, Mosque...) and state, and I have to remind you all that if you look at the Bible you would see that many prophets including David, Solomon, Moses, Josef, were all prophets as well as kings.

Does that not give the answer to those who support the separation of Church and state?

Here in Iran the first official, national religion is Islam, but Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and any other holy religion except for those which are man-made and a source of disruption and corruption (like Baha’ism) have their own followers, who have always been part of the Iranian population and perhaps it would seem ironic to most of you that they continue to live here and not *flee* the country!! but the big truth is that they do, but then the Muslims are the majority and thus this makes them the minority who have their own rights and even representative members in the parliament –this part might be a real shock to many of you who have been constantly fed with the propaganda of your media!!!.

I don't want to comment on many Islamic-Sunni governed country like Saudi Arabia or such, since I believe them to be extremists,(ideas such as blowing oneself up in crowded places, whether it be in Israel or Iraq are completely NOT my or the Shia way of reaching ones aim) but I have to say that I think religion is very much related to the state and government and if we see a break bet these two in the western past it is first of all because the powerful, who wanted to always have it their own ways saw religion as an obstacle on their way to becoming super rich and powerful., the other reason was the dishonest ways in which religion was being used by many religious leaders.

Concerning Covering /Hijab/Hejab/ I believe that if religion orders it for the welfare and safety of the family it more so orders it for the welfare of society, otherwise the Religious people would have to be more or less the weird, secluded people they tend to seem in the west.

I believe that a minimum covering should always be obligatory for both men and women a kind of covering which is modest and I think modest clothing is more or less understandable to the majority i.e. not too tight, revealing or short) and I'm sure that a MUSLIM, a CHRISTIAN and a JEW in modest clothing look very much SIMILAR!

I'm not implying here that modesty laws have always been carried out here in the best manner, but let me put your minds at ease, nobody gets the lash here, if she does not wear a "Chador" as the western media always tries to tell you.

I know that what Iran needs is to give people especially the women enough awareness so that they would CHOOSE hijab and I agree with those of you who say forced religion is full of bad feelings but then what has the west done with its limitless freedom especially for women? Has it really given them liberty or enslavement?

I think Anna would have much to say on the above statement.

Religion has always been inseparable from the government and its only then that both the government and religion would act in its proper role, not like today's situation where each one is separately struggling to achieve an impossible aim, i.e. welfare for mankind. With separation there is always a lack of either the spiritual side (like in the governments) or a lack of supportive rules and laws(as it is in religious communities) to implement Godly ways.

As we Iranians say,


(may God always protect you)


Crystal in Alaska said...

Beautifully stated, Anna!