Why I am going Naked for Israel and the Middle East

September 1, 2011 by Raffe Gold
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Anyone who knows me is aware that if I step into a gym it is usually to ask for directions out of the gym. I am the farthest thing from a gym junkie and the very idea of exercise makes me reach for the ice-cream that seems to constantly be in my freezer…write Raffe Gold.

Raffe Gold

However for the last two weeks I have been on the treadmill, lifting weights, doing chest inclines and looking incredibly scrawny amongst the buff Israeli men that seem to drain me of my masculinity. Why? Because on September 17th I will be car-pooling with others down to the famous Dead Sea to pose naked for a Spencer Tunick nude photo. The purpose of this, largely for the thrill of the idea, is to show that currently Israel is the only country in the region that could possibly get away with such a brazen display of flesh.

Tunick is well known to Australians and the world. He has taken photographs of mass nudes in Sydney, London, Barcelona, New York, Switzerland and scores of other countries. The models are all unpaid and in many cases Tunick’s photographs are meant to convey a message to the world. In the case of his photo-shoot in Israel it is to highlight the rapidly eroding Dead Sea which scientists say will be dry by the year 2050 unless vital measures are taken. Yet for me the decision to bare everything, with the exception of my soul, was for both personal and political reasons. Tunick stated that he believed Israel was the only country in the Middle East with the religious freedom for a photo shoot comprising of hundreds, or thousands, of naked bodies. I sadly have to agree with Tunick and honestly believe that until we see similar nude photo shoots or even the most basic displays of liberalism in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia or Gaza then the grip of Islamist fascism will continue to take its hold on the region.

We remember, shockingly, in 2002 how fourteen young girls were brutally murdered by the Saudi Arabian Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice aka the ‘religious police’ when they were forced back into a burning building because they were not dressed to the fascistic standards of the organisation. For not wearing a veil these young girls were left to burn alive while the religious police prevented firefighters from rescuing the poor students lest physical contact take place between the young girls and their rescuers for fear of sexually enticing them. Whilst this is just one example it is one in a score of others. Acid attacks on young girls in Afghanistan is common for the simple crime of pursing an education, in Iran a woman’s life is worth half of a man’s and whilst boys cannot be held legally responsible for their actions until they are 14 girls as young as 8 can be sentenced to death and female prisoners are raped prior to their executions lest they go to heaven as virgins, in Syria the barbaric practice of honour killings is still routine and in Gaza women are barred from seeing a male hairdresser or strolling along the beach with a man. Homosexuals too are persecuted in the most gruesome way within these countries. One cannot forget the truly shocking sight of gay men being hung from a crane simply for the crime of following their hearts.

Yet Israel, despite being a bastion of liberalism, is not immune to the horrors of theocratic rule. Whilst we have a predominately secular government and scores of human rights organizations ensuring that the rights of minorities are protected we do still have large elements of our population that rally against liberalism. I am talking about those religious fundamentalists who demand that women in certain areas of Jerusalem sit at the back of the bus and if not they will be beaten like some twisted retelling of Rosa Parks in the modern age. I refer to the discrimination that women face in Israel when it comes to divorce, employment and domestic abuse. There is no doubt that Israel remains leaps and bounds ahead of both the Arab and many countries within the Western World however the fact that these discriminations still exists to the extent that it does is a depressing truth we, as Israelis, must face.

When Spencer Tunick positions his models he will be examining light filters and how the sun hits the water but in the back of his mind he will be thinking about the rapidly dwindling landmark that he is trying to save. I support him and his cause but when I am lying in the ocean my thoughts will not be on how impressive I look or whether a future employer may see this but it will be on the voiceless. Those who sit in silence and admire Israel for her liberal values, the women who wake up in the morning to a state-sanctioned abusive marriage, to the girls who bravely walk to school under the threat of maiming and death and to the homosexuals who must stay silent about those who they love. I await the day that they are free to express themselves as I am about to and I cannot wait for the day that we will be able to pose naked together.


Raffe Gold is a recent immigrant to Israel from Australia. He can be contacted at twitter.com/raffeg


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