Latest posts by Varda Epstein (see all)
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What would you do if your friendly neighborhood gas station suddenly sprouted a mural depicting a man with a skullcap fellating an infant? Apparently, in Cleveland, Ohio, you wouldn’t do much of anything at all. Oh sure, you might express outrage and the mayor might make a statement, but that’s all folks.
I know. Because I spoke to a couple of Clevelanders, one of them presently living in that fair city, the other having made Aliyah to Israel a little over a year ago. These (Jewish) friends of mine say that Brahim “Abe” Ayad, the proprietor at Biggie’s gas station and convenience store, does this all the time. Eventually, he paints over the wall.
And then does it again (In between rounds of Farm Heroes Saga. Goodness, he’s up to level 131!)
My friends think of Ayad’s graffiti as a Jewish problem.
Last week, Uri Gobey over at Israel Muse drew my attention to the aforementioned mural; the most disgusting piece of wall “art” I’d ever seen. The mural had made it onto the television screen by way of a local news broadcast.
While the mural was certainly anti-Semitic, it was also clearly pornographic. Though none of the locals interviewed on WEW Channel 5 appeared to be Jewish, they were upset their children had been and continued to be exposed to pornography.
So what happened next?
Mayor Frank Jackson made a statement (Oh, my. I bet old Abe is quaking in his boots. Not.).
“There is no place in Cleveland for this inappropriate image and I am urging the owners of this establishment to remove it immediately.”
I was appalled at this news piece. I could not, for the life of me, understand why no one did more than make noise. My friends explained that this had happened before (!). In fact, they said it had happened many times (!!).
I said, “So HELLO? Why aren’t you doing anything about it?”
They wanted to know what I thought they could do. My mouth dropped open. What could they do??
Refuse to patronize his gas station. Create and hand out leaflets. Write op-eds and letters to the editor. RALLY. Um. BUY SPRAY PAINT??
I mean, seriously.
As the morning wove on, I discovered this had happened at least seven times before. In the past, Ayad’s mural messages (as opposed to “moral messages”) were “merely” anti-Semitic as opposed to pornographic and anti-Semitic. So the locals looked the other way and deemed it a “Jewish problem” while the Jews figured there’s not all that much they can do about the problem because the gas station is not in a Jewish neighborhood.
So my questions asked and answered, I STILL DON’T GET IT.
If someone were to put up a mural in my community expressing bigotry toward an ethnic group other than my own, you can bet your sweet bippy I’d holler long and loud until it got taken down. I would stop at nothing until the offensive work was erased, removed, and kaput. And if nothing else worked, I’d buy a can of spray paint and take care of it myself.
I’d also make sure that none of my neighbors patronized a store that displayed this type of artwork.
Complacency. That’s what it boils down to. Everyone thinks that as long as they’ve complained (to the news, to a NEIGHBOR??) they’re done.
And that is why Ayad is becoming ever bolder. Now he has crossed the line from anti-Semitism to anti-Semitic pornography. It is now impossible to call the graffiti “only’” a Jewish problem. As Aussie Dave noted in his earlier post on the subject, the news report mentions that,
“The gas station sits right across the street from the George Washington Carver School for grades K-8 and their playground. The image is on the side that is in plain sight of students.”
Imagine. You send your little girl off to school (she’s in, let’s be conservative and say second grade) and when she comes home she asks,
“Mommy, what’s a Talmudic priest? Why does he put a baby’s penis in his mouth?”
What should a mother answer to THAT?
Now, if my child asked me this question I’d say, “It’s a part of the circumcision process, it’s called ‘metzitzah’ and today it is done with a pipette for health reasons.”
The only reason I’d know that is because 1) I’m Jewish and orthodox and 2) I have 8 sons and know quite a lot about the subject of circumcision. By the way, I can guarantee that 3) There is absolutely nothing sexual in the act. It is about drawing away germ-filled blood from the wound to ensure the baby’s safe recovery.
But if I were a local of that particular neighborhood with its largely black demographic, I wouldn’t know that. I’d only know it was a depiction of a rabbi doing fellatio on an infant. I wouldn’t know if Jews really do this sort of thing and I might not care enough to ascertain the truth. What would I tell my child?
I might say:
“A bad man painted a dirty picture on his gas station wall. When you’re in the playground, try not to look at it. It’s BAD.”
I’d probably say that because not knowing anything about Jewish custom, I’d want to neatly sidestep the anti-Semitic message and just tell my child the art is, in general, “bad.”
But seriously, is there no way to protect area children from such corruption? Are there no parents brave enough to force this man out of business? Not à la Sterling with dubiously legal procedures, but by way of a grassroots boycott? Picket the man! Hand out leaflets!
I’m left asking: what is wrong with Clevelanders? With AMERICA? How can they leave this mural in full view of small children??
I fully expect an outcry of disgust against me for maligning Americans in general and Clevelanders in particular. But as in the case of Biggie’s artist, Abe Ayad, I expect the outrage won’t add up to more than a lot of sound and fury.