When my ex-partner’s father gripped the back of my neck he was a 50-year-old man, husband and father, a highly-respected and well-positioned journalist, a regular at a gym, and at trendy wine bars, surrounded by beautiful women. I could feel all of these weighing on the back of my neck. I felt we both knew he was convinced that he is deserving.
This went on for about 60 seconds, in the middle of the night, in Tel Aviv. He had given me a ride home and we were standing on the sidewalk. For 60 seconds he locked his fingers around the back of my neck. He rippled them in his direction, his upper arm trying to draw my frozen body closer to him for a kiss. For the first time I realized how that by-now-metaphoric physical reaction “peeing in your pants” really works.
There was no kiss. There was nothing, in fact. What indeed actually happened?
Interpretation: he gives up and draws me closer to him for what he later called “(merely) an affectionate hug”, and as soon as the only thing touching my body was only my own trousers pressing against my upset belly, I asked limply: “Why?”
He came to like a panther. Within seconds he opened a court martial. For 50 whole minutes he tried to persuade me that I fictionalized a situation, that I seduced him, that I am sexually attractive, that I am appreciated, that I’m a liar, that we’ll talk about it in daylight, that we won’t talk at all. That we’d part as friends, that we’d take it from there.
I reminded him that I am of his own daughter’s partner. “That is not what I understood”, he asserted insolently. “You’re her ex. I wouldn’t hit on the partner of a friend of mine, even, if I knew they were still together.”
This was the testimony I gave, under a pseudonym and with slight changes, in July 2013 on the “One of One” project. At the time events unfolded I was 22-years old, in a complicated relationship, in love to my very core.
My partner was Ari Shavit’s daughter, who is presently, as quoted in your own article, “a human rights activist and an avid feminist”. Unlike the blatant formulation published on Haaretz online – the first time his daughter confronted his shady actions was not a year and a half ago but six years ago. That “painful Saturday” described in pathos on your article, was but a bitter reminder for her of a dim family reality that changed her life, my life and our life long before.
For six years she and I have been coping with that painful night, together and separately, sensitively, bravely, through dialogue. From where I stand I can attest that she has definitely been making progress in this journey, being one of the wisest and most moral women I know. And thus I know that she realizes why I must make this letter public.
Orit, I don’t mean to refer to the Danielle Berrin affair, even if your findings make it sound like that was the whole story. I chose to turn to you as to someone who, unlike her intentions, has supported the good conscience of a person who has presented an especially familial year-and-a-half as a success filled with insights, and explained to us in the soft tones of an experienced interviewer how to welcome him back with open arms.
He is the person who gripped his daughter’s beloved in his arms and explained to her that it was fine, that she simply didn’t understand, who called the next day to apologize for what had not taken place, and to beg me not to tell, just not tell what did not happen. So I didn’t tell. Because I was afraid and didn’t tell for the sake of his daughter whom I love with all my heart.
I didn’t tell and I let it go, concentrated on mourning our relationship and my own recovery, Even when a year-and-a-half ago my own closer circle urged me to tell what had been such a burden. I remained in close quarters with his face lit brightly on the TV screen, with daily newspapers and online media. The same media is now used by Shavit, who really and truly believes in the transformation that he has undergone, and asks for our forgiveness.
All I wish is to express my contempt for normalizing public apologies, for reducing the symptoms to a single complainer or two, contempt for a man who has gone astray in the woods and in his own defense attacks a deer. This is not reality, and we are all aware of it. Ari Shavit begs us to normalize the patterns of his behavior only since he has experienced public boycott for what to him has seemed an eternity. I only ask of you, Orit, to make sure that your stage, journalistic or otherwise, be offered only to those who have proven worthy of it.
Ari Shavit, in response: "My daughter's ex-partner thinks I should disappear forever. Her position is radical and disproportionate. When I made mistakes regarding young women I took full responsibility. I apologized, I suspended myself, I learned lessons. I went and still going through a process of mending, but the story told here is completely different. There's nothing between what took place and what is described here. The version changes and evolves. I did not grab her by the neck, I did not try to kiss her, I had no unworthy intentions with regards to her. As it involves my daughter's private life I will not elaborate any further".