Israel Story

Lost and Found—Part II

In an episode that explores a central religious taboo and pushes the boundaries of what many might deem acceptable within Jewish tradition, we ask whether Cat Stevens was onto something when he sang that ‘the first cut is the deepest’

November 15, 2021

In Part I of our Lost and Found double-hitter, we heard how Steve Gray and Anat Harrel of Kibbutz Hanaton in the Lower Galilee found, then nearly lost, and ultimately recovered a 2,000-year-old mikvah. And our story today also goes back and forth between losing and finding and finding and losing. Ironically, it, too, revolves around a core Jewish ritual—seen from an unexpected angle. But before you jump in, a warning: This episode contains content about sex and sexuality, and challenges widely held Jewish traditions.

Prologue: “Finding a Hand.” While recording what would become Israel Story’s season opener, host Mishy Harman stumbled upon a handwritten sign. “Returning a lost item,” it read in messy black letters. “A yad—a Torah pointer—has been found.” Always on the hunt for a good story, he called. In the months since, the entire Israel Story team has followed up on countless random lost-and-found signs around the country.

Act I: “The First Cut Is the Deepest.” When Tamir Levy’s brother asked him whether he planned to circumcise his soon-to-be-born son, the answer was obvious. After all, roughly 99% of Jewish men in Israel—from the ultra-Orthodox through the religious and traditional all the way to the completely secular—get circumcised. It is, therefore, the most observed Jewish ritual by a very wide margin. But that seemingly innocent question set Tamir down a path that led to unpopular choices, an altered anatomy, and a restored sense of confidence. Producer Yoshi Fields sheds light on struggles of masculinity that are typically kept private.

Zev Levi scored and sound-designed the episode with music from Blue Dot Sessions. Sela Waisblum created the mix. Thanks to our dubber, Naomi Schneider, and to Rav Hayim Leiter, Rani Kasher, Yotam Gordon, Eric Cunningham, Tyler Drozd, Dror Peretz, Omri Cohen, Joel Shupack, Judah Kauffman, Wayne Hoffman, Esther Werdiger, Federica Sasso, Yoav Orot, Tomer Nissim, Sheila Lambert, Erica Frederick, Jeff Feig, and Joy Levitt.

The end song, “Bidyuk Kmo SheAni” (“As I Am”), was written and arranged by Ravid Plotnik (Nechi Nech) and Shai Or, and performed by Plotnik.

Listen to the episode here, or download it from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. You can hear all of Israel Story’s episodes in English here and in Hebrew here.

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