A Parallel Universe – Voodoo Judaism

Two movies I saw recently made me realise there exists a parallel universe in Israel. It’s not that I didn’t know of its existence; it’s just that after watching these movies I came to understand how distant it is from my universe and how many people appear to be living in it.

It is the universe inhabited by people who believe in what I have termed before as voodoo Judaism. This “brand” of Judaism consists, among other things, of practices such as:

incessant dippings in the mikveh, frequent trips to graves, red strings tied around the wrist, “holy” water, amulets to ward off the evil eye, chairs to “cure” barren women, kabbalah seminars

and it is a continually expanding universe.

The movies are about two “gurus”. One is very well-known: Ya’acov Ifargan, a.k.a The Rentgen (“x-ray” in Hebrew). Popular among some local celebrities and businessmen, Ifargan purports to be able to diagnose a person’s malady by merely looking at him/her (hence the “x-ray” capability). He will also tell you whether your next business endeavour is worth pursuing. All for an appropriate “donation”, of course.

The second is a less famous “guru”, Nir ben Artzi. This former heavy-equipment operator built a loyal sect of followers and came to light to the general public only last year, returning from three years of disappearance and claiming he was abducted and kept prisoner by his closest peers all this time.

The movies are not short; they are documentaries lasting 40 and 50 minutes respectively. But they are fascinating, and in many ways, scary to watch.

The movie about Ya’acov Ifargan (Hebrew only)

The movie about Nir ben Artzi (Hebrew, with English/French subtitles)

It is sad and despairing to witness how Judaism is being perverted and distorted by men such as these fraudsters, who manage to ensnare simple-minded believers in an elaborate web of false pretenses and promises.

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