Child sacrifice as entertainment
The continuing struggle over the adopted child that has been in the news for the past week may not be the most unusual story of its type but it is certainly the one getting the most media coverage - if that's the word for all the tear-jerking, schmaltzy spin.
The continuing struggle over the adopted child that has been in the news for the past week may not be the most unusual story of its type but it is certainly the one getting the most media coverage - if that's the word for all the tear-jerking, schmaltzy spin. It seems all the people involved in this affair - the biological parents, the adoptive parents, their relatives and lawyers - will stop at nothing and use every populist means at their disposal to tip the emotional scales in their direction.
The media are also playing an unbecoming role in this drama. For over a week, they have been milking mini-dramas from the story. There is scarcely a famous actor, model or third-rate intellectual whose declared views on the subject have not been quoted. Even "the nation's entertainer" Dudu Topaz, who has been part of a fair number of model paternal dramas of his own, has already proposed a solution to the parents.
And why not? After all, they are all parents, and consequently, without being familiar with all the particularly complex details of the case, they are all experts. "An entire country," said one of the attorneys, "is holding its breath" as it waits for the decision by the "saddest woman in the country, Judge Saviona Rotlevy, because whatever she decides will make one of the sides miserable."
This is nonsense. For over 15 years, Judge Rotlevy has presided over cases involving the tragic and cruel stories of children that no one cared about, not only because their cases were debated behind closed doors, but also because they did not have publicity-hungry parents and lawyers. Some did not have a soul in the world that cared what happened to them. This is also not the first time that Rotlevy will be presiding over a case in which the parents claim "they are doing everything for the child," whereas by their actions, they are causing him irreparable harm.
She was quite right when she rebuked the parents and their attorneys in the preliminary hearing on Sunday because this entire story is taking place on the back of a helpless infant. Everyone seemingly wants only the best for him, but he will never be the same.
How long will it take for some talk-show host to get an exclusive interview with the child's furious uncle or sobbing grandmother? How many years will pass before he reaches the age when it will be able to be hinted at, in an article published in honor of some school performance that this was the child from a conflict reminiscent of the two mothers before King Solomon?
And why not hold a King Solomon's trial right now - say as part of a TV reality show. Someone could scare the kid and then both mothers would be called to calm him down. The one that succeeds would be crowned as the most worthy mother by the viewers.
The prostitution of this whole sad affair into an entertainment spectacle is a reflection of deep-rooted social norms that dominate Israeli society. Despite all the apparent changes that the family institution has undergone - single-sex couples, civil marriage, families living together without marriage, and single parenthood - motherhood is still defined as a sickeningly saccharine sacred value.
A woman is not regarded as complete until she has brought a child into the world. Every mother, on the other hand, achieves a special standing, that of a "mother," and only in that identity may she express a political opinion or oppose war. In the case of the adopted baby, she may also - in the name of her maternal feelings - publicly crush the soul and future of her child.
That is exactly what everyone involved in this case has done. They have sacrificed the child without batting an eyelid, all in the context of some Great Mothering Show. But it was those that compared this case to the celebrated story involving King Solomon who missed the most important point.
The story in Kings involved a stratagem by which the king would hopefully be able to identify the real mother. In reality, Solomon did not care who the real mother was. By brandishing a sword, he was able to spot the woman to whom the welfare of the child was more important than her own.
That Biblical trial was merely an allegory, but the principle that it evinced is still valid. Now we have to allow the court to judge where the child's best interests lie, without stratagems or interference.