Film Shows Inner Workings of Haredi Culture

I wrote this story in March of 2015 for The Battalion, the on-campus newspaper of Texas A&M University.  The article is about a documentary over an ultra-conservative sect of Judaism in Israel, as well as what the director had to go through to put the documentary together.  This is my first journalistic work that’s ever been published.  I’ve copied the text of the article below, as well as a link to the Batt, where you can read the actual article.

The Texas A&M Hillel will evaluate the strict rules placed on women in the Haredi community, a branch of Orthodox Judaism characterized by its rejection of modern secular culture, with a showing of the documentary “Black Bus.”
The Monday showing will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Anat Zuria.
“Black Bus” is about two women attempting to escape oppression and gender segregation from the Haredi community. Zuria said she made the documentary at the request of a friend, who was a part of the Haredi community.
“I was living in Jerusalem — I have so many friends in those communities and I heard from her and more or less she asked me — told me — ‘Please, Anat, go and make a film about it,’” Zuria said.
The Haredi are very traditional, closed-off to the outside world and have strict views of their teachings, said Ashley Passmore, international studies professor.
“It’s amazing and unique that Anat, who is sort of an outsider from that community, got a lot of access through her work and through her connections and research and so on,” Passmore said.
Zuria said it took four years to get enough people to trust her and her crew enough to let them into the Haredi community. Even then, her crew had to be cautious when shooting the documentary in secret.
“We had to do many, many tricks,” Zuria said. “We had all types of hidden cameras. In the film we show the segregated buses. If you go into a bus and try to film what is happening there, immediately someone, some man, will jump on you. And you can be harmed and there can be violence and we had to face these kinds of conditions.”
Passmore said if they had found the camera on Zuria, physical violence may have been used against her and her crew.
“So in many ways what she was exposing was a taboo thing that was very difficult to film, and because what happens is if they had found her camera on these buses, they would have destroyed the camera or probably physically assaulted her or anybody else working on the project,” Passmore said. “That was what Anat was talking about in this discussion about if you confront a taboo you’ll often face some blowback.”
“Black Bus” does much more than just show problems within a religious community — it brings up questions about religious fundamentalism and cultural taboos, which are part of the reason this documentary was so difficult to make, Zuria said.
“Because it’s a taboo, you know?” Zuria said. “You could maybe do an article after being there, maybe, two years. But you can’t really make a film. Women — they’re more or less not allowed to be shown or be seen in public.”
Passmore said this oppression is present, but many people are simply ignorant of it.
“The issue about this ‘Black Bus’ thing is that these gender segregated buses exist in Israel, but basically secular people don’t really know about them,” Passmore said. “They read about them, but they don’t ride on these buses, so nobody really talks about it.”
Brent Olian, international studies senior, said Texas A&M is becoming more aware of other religions.
“It obviously is a very conservative, predominantly more right-wing leaning kind of Christian university,” Olian said. “So certain things, such as religion and maybe even politics, aren’t discussed too openly. Or, even if they are, one side is heavily outnumbered by the other. But it is growing more and more open, I would say.”
The “Black Bus” showing will be 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Hillel Center.


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