What's a Person's Worth? In Israel, Depends Who That Person Is

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Actor Moshe Ivgy arriving at Hermon prison in September to begin an 11 months sentence
Actor Moshe Ivgy arriving at Hermon prison in September to begin an 11 months sentenceCredit: Gil Eliahu
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

I watched the film “Worth” this week. It’s a very interesting movie, following the process of setting the amount of compensation for the victims of the September 11th attacks. The central ethical dilemma at the film’s core pertains to whether the compensation should be equal for all the victims. Or, to put it bluntly, is the life of a CEO who worked in one of the Twin Towers offices worth the same as the life of a janitor who cleaned them, or of a firefighter who was killed trying to save the people trapped in the buildings (anyone wants to guess the answer?).

When I came out of the movie, in the cinema foyer I passed a line of huge posters of actors on the wall. I assume my eyes wouldn’t have stopped on any of them, had I not noticed the scribbling on one figure’s face and the black holes made around the head and groin area.

“It never occurred to me to boycott Israel. Until Arkansas told me I couldn’t”

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The poster was of actor Moshe Ivgy, in the role of a character in one of his movies. Apparently, it was a to-be-continued scribble. Someone wrote something and others added and modified it, but maintained the same spirit. Now it reads: “Delegitimization of rapists is necessary…”

As I was trying to discern what was originally written on the poster, a middle-aged couple walked by. The woman was shocked by the fact that the poster was hanging there and muttered to her husband something about the need to remove it, that it’s a disgrace. And the husband – I have no idea what he was thinking, but I got the impression that he would have preferred to have a tooth pulled out without anesthesia than to contradict his wife, or even to murmur that after all, Ivgy is not a rapist.

That poster, with the ugly writing, with the holes in the groin, and that woman, who preached to her husband, who accepted his wife’s moral authority without objection and with a kind of vague mumbling beneath his mask, have been on my mind for several days. Ivgy is not a rapist. This is not an attempt to defend his conduct, but the public atmosphere today regarding relations between men and women doesn’t allow for a distinction between rape and harassment, or for the array of misunderstandings and unpleasant incidents surrounding the issue.

To say that Ivgy isn’t a rapist is regarded as focusing on the nuances, as though there isn’t a gaping difference between a stranger who pounces on a woman in the street in the middle of the night, threatens her with a knife and forces sexual intercourse on her, and an actor who stroked the back of an actress who worked with him without consent, or pushed his head toward the breast of another actress on the set. But there is a difference, and it’s not at all minor.

And then I remembered this wasn’t the first time I thought of Ivgy in the past month. Not that I have any interest in him. I admit that I wasn’t exactly raised on Israeli cinema and theater, so that Ivgy isn’t a figure in my life, or in my cultural world. He is no more than a name to me. But I know he was admired by many men and women. I remembered Ivgy this month when the court handed a verdict of nine months community service to Aryeh Schiff, an Arad resident who shot to death a Bedouin who tried to steal his car. I asked myself: nine months – isn’t that what Ivgy had been sentenced to?

My memory deceived me. Ivgy was actually sentenced to 11 months. And of course, prison time, not merely community service. Nine months of community service to a man who shot a Bedouin to death, even though he himself admitted that the act wasn’t immediately necessary to thwart the burglars from entering his living area. In contrast, 11 months in prison to a man who put his hands on actresses he worked with and made a pass at them in a disgusting manner, and mainly, while refusing to believe and internalize that they weren’t interested in him. In Israel too, it appears, there’s a different tariff for every man. But I don’t think anyone will make a movie about it anytime soon.

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