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Ruth Almog is an Israelite woman, who loved literature as she grew up. She wrote mostly on women and justice. In one of her books, ‘Invisible mending’ she based her focus on a girl, Hefzibah who grew in an exploitive society.
This essay will discuss oppression and liberation as covered in the story by Ruth Almog. In Hebrew, the words “I delight in her” are “Hefzibah” (Glazer 34); the pain enacted in Almog’s story has been “invisibly mended” by the healing power of the Bible. She is strong all through when she read God’s word which comforts her in her problems. The essay will also discuss the remedy to this oppression based on leadership, gender and religion.
The story of a young girl growing up in the midst of problems is a good platform for Ruth Almog’s explanation and emphasis on the many ways of oppression. The rules and laws are a heavy burden in her life. The exercise of religious laws is unjust and she is depicted as a victim of circumstances; she is suffering physically and psychologically. The loss of her father at a young age is one form of psychological torture she has to bear with.
Hefzibah Ruth Almog’s ‘ Invisible Mending’ , growing up in Palestine and faced at once with her father’s death and her own dawning sexuality, is an intermeshing of ancient texts, as well as social political, economic, sexual, Psychological, familial, artistic and religious tension. (Glazer 33)
The murder of Hefzibah’s father by Hitler subjects the family to further exploitation. Hefzibah’s grandmother has to engage in the cleaning other people’s houses to earn a living. The girl and her family suffer severely from the death of her father in a foreign country. Being a woman subjects all of them, grandmother, the mother and daughter Hefzibah, to exploitation.
Though these children distinguish between themselves and the ultra orthodox whose young men attend Yeshivot in Jerusalem, they nevertheless use the fine points of religious law as a way to torment her, while her harassed mother argues, – But you have nothing to wear…and winter clothes are awfully expensive. (Glazer 34)
Her grandmother is over worked at an old age; they also became very poor to the extent that her mother gave her jumper for an invisible mending which is double edged. This invisible mending was not acceptable in the Jewish culture as it was a sign of mourning.
There is misuse of religious law in this society which makes this girl to suffer in vain because the punishments does not help her and neither does it help the punishers. Instead the girl is just subjected to pain:
In school, Hefzibah is also oppressed by her teacher who, blind to her love of drawing, relentlessly carps at her for inattentiveness. He demands that she copy out psalm 82 ‘a hundred times’ as punishment.
Particularly because his name, “Mr. Lev,” identifies him as a “Levite” that is as a descendant of the priestly tribe singled out by the Torah…Hefzibah serve as bitterly ironic narrative comment on the misuse of authority in the name of religion’. This passage demonstrates clearer exploitation on basis of her origin. Why did this teacher choose to give such punishment to a pupil? (Glazer 34)
Almog argued that people should go beyond gender and all forms of divisions so as to be free and bring about growth. New ideas and art were the ones that could set humanity free and nothing else. Hefzibah experienced oppression in school where she is punished for no reason. Her religion practices subject her to thorough beatings that are inhuman. This caused her to be always alert and afraid in suspicion of some dangers around her as captured from this text:
And while she was still absorbed in the Bible, memorizing the passage, she was suffused by the fear that a dangerous presence was approaching, throbbing in the air, spinning towards her and crying, “Ho! Ya! Ho! Ya! ” She tried to feel off the feeling of oppression and went back to the text:’ Just after a short time, ‘She felt a full force of an open hand strike her cheek’. “She has to be punished!’’Cried Bracha Shvili, but Esther Strauss insisted, “That’s enough” (Glazer 46).
This girl was punished for mending a tear. Even when Leah Katz tries to stop Bracha Shvili from striking her cheeks because of sympathy Shula Reisser got hold of her and supported that Hefzibah deserved a beating. This shows a character that has taken its roots in the society. Leah Katz complains that this man could even punish her to death.
Women are subjected to sexual harassment, for example, Hefzibah was harassed by a man who forcefully kissed her;
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He grabbed hold of her with his course, heavy hands, murmuring,”Hefzi, my beauty, the joy of my life. I’ve caught you!” “Mother mother!” Hefzibah screamed but his moist lips were already on her face, his hands red hot tongs piercing the flesh of her arms.’(Glazer 45)
Despite all the exploitive experiences this girl goes through, her innermost being is strong and she finds her hope in the Bible, God’s word. She is hopeful and her mind is at Liberty. She has trusted in God’s word regardless of the circumstances around her. She believed that God was on her side and was watching over her even when every other person was against her.
In the midst of despair she read, “O Lord, will dispute with Thee, for thou art just; Yes, I will plead my case before thee. Why do the wicked prosper and traitors live at ease? Thou hast planted them and their roots strike deep” (Glazer 46).
She believed that these people who were doing wrong were very prosperous without problems and that God was not being fair to her. She had one conviction that God soon will work things out for her and she kept on reading the Bible.
She tried to ward off the feeling of oppression and went back to the text: “Thou art ever on their lips, yet far from their hearts. But thou know me, O Lord, thou hast seen me; though has tried my heart toward thee to thyself…’ (Glazer 46)
Liberty was associated with men; in this sense the married women were shielded from heavy exploitation. Thus a father plays an important role in the family. He is seen as the provider of family needs. She argues it in this excerpt: …that if it hadn’t been for Hitler, her grandmother would have servants of her own and wouldn’t have to clean house for other people and may be her father would still be alive. It is this country that killed him, she thought and maybe it is true that mother shouldn’t have given my jumper to invisible mending. (Glazer 33)
The role of men as protectors also came out clearly in an incidence when Hefzibah was almost raped and her mother told her, “Your father would have broken all his bones” (Glazer 45). Liberty is brought by creativity. It must look beyond one’s gender, class and national divisions.
Creativity is the only true freedom, Ruth Almog has said, ‘One that transcends gender, class, and national divisions” (Glazer 34). This shows that freedom should not be denied to any person on basis of their gender, economic status or nationality. Hefzibah wishes that these other people could change and stop discrimination and exploitation.
Liberty was in her heart. Though she looked oppressed, she was free in her heart and this gave her strength to go on with life. The peace in her heart was invisible and probably the use of the title, Invisible Mending since not many could see her heart.
Liberty is a hunger in every society especially for women. The misuse of authority or religion to exploit women is destructive and calls for people who can fight to promote justice for women.
Oppression brings suffering as it is clear from the life of the young girl in the above story. All forms of oppression occur in society. This is mostly brought especially by unjust leaders. The unjust leaders preach what they do not do to exploit the poor. This calls for strategies to free women in the society. It should treat all people equally and apply biblical principles to govern and lead the society.
Almog, Ruth. Jewish Women’s Archive. JWA, 2011. Web. <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/almog-ruth>
Glazer, Miriyam. Dreaming the actual: contemporary fiction and poetry by Israeli women writers. New York: Suny Press. Print.