Untold Stories 5:

Regimented by Faith

In the yeshiva – a Jewish religious academy – the Torah scriptures and the Talmud and its commentaries are studied aloud by pairs of students, one-on-one. It’s considered an ideal to turn each problem around, to always take the opposing view, to critically challenge each other. A commendable tradition. Strangely enough, this supposedly critical approach to textual study doesn’t seem to leave any visible mark on other aspects of ultra-Orthodox life.  Every man ends up in a similar black uniform. It is hard to distinguish one from the other.
On the Mount of Olives, just east of the Old City of Jerusalem, a large group of ultra-Orthodox men suddenly appeared while I was photographing another subject. They all steered straight towards the particular grave of a deceased rabbi. It was probably the jahrzeit – the anniversary – of his death. 
As if on cue, all began to pray facing the Temple Mount across from us. All except one. 
One single, bearded, black-garbed ultra-Orthodox man seemed more interested in what was going on in the opposite direction.
Without bestowing too much meaning on such a brief moment, it nevertheless leaves me with a tiny, fragile hope for the future. Because even in the most uniform, regimented societies there are always a few individuals who have their eyes firmly fixed on something in the opposite direction from the majority. 
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Translation by Matthew Kalman

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