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Jul 18, 2022

she left Biden hanging

Last week when President Biden was in town for his visit, President Herzog hosted an event in his honor. At the event, Ran Danker and Yuval Dayan sang a rendition of Naomi Shemer's song Lu Yehi, which is also some sort of mashup with the Beatles song Let It Be.

It was a beautiful rendition and it looks like it was a lovely celebration overall. What happened at the end of the song has become a talking point across Israel over the past few days, though by now most have already moved on to other things.

Here is the clip (Three Weeks music warning, for those who need it):

As you can see at the end of the clip, a very pleased Joe Biden gets up to than the singers and extends his hand for a shake. Danker steps up and shakes while Dayan bows in thanks but does not shake Biden's hand. Some words are exchanged, words that we cannot hear, and everyone moves on with their lives.

This created quite a stir. People were shocked and even angry at the gall of Yuval Dayan leaving the President high and dry, leaving him hanging. 

It is well known across Israel that Yuval Dayan has been in a process of becoming more religious and taking on more  religious behaviors and rules ever since 2016. A while back Dayan said she will no longer shake hands with men, or hug, as she is now shomeret negiya.

So, despite the fact that Dayan just sang in front of a bunch of people, both men and women, both Jews and non-Jews, she is shomeret negiya and not necessarily careful about singing in front of men, so she sang but did not shake. Plenty of people who become religious do it slowly, taking on more things over time as they get comfortable. She is comfortable now with singing and not shaking hands. That is where she is at, and she acted consistently with her beliefs and commitments at this point.

People got very upset at her. First, she is allowed to shake, it is not sexual (though with Biden one never knows), and leaving him hanging is very embarrassing. Second, she is a hypocrite claiming religion when she just sang - if she is so religious and so committed she should have passed on the event and let someone else sing, but if she can sing she can shake.

As mentioned, that is not how it works. Besides the technical details that the problem is not hers but the men listening to her, and she might have a hetter for parnassa, if she wanted one - besides for all that - she has not taken that on yet. at this point in her life she is not yet comfortable giving up singing publicly, even though she has given up shaking and hugging men. That is not hypocritical, it is just where she is at right now.

Even without the singing, people were still critical for leaving Biden hanging. Malbin panav, and all that. Yuval Dayan posted an explanation online that she had told the Americans several times in advance that she would not shake hands or hug or touch in any way with any men, and she confirmed multiple times that this would be ok. Ran Danker posted confirming this from his side of the events. Biden forgot, or got swept up in the moment. While I personally would have shaked hands, Dayan did everything possible to avoid the situation and cannot be blamed for refusing and leaving Biden hanging, even if she could have shaken hands halachically had she wanted to. Also, if you watch the video, the entire moment was graceful, with Danker stepping forward and Dayan bowing slightly, and I dont think anyone was embarrassed by the gaffe. I did see some funny comments such as even if Biden was embarrassed, he forgot about it moments later, and another that Biden is so used to shaking hands with nobody but the air that he probably didnt even notice.

Interestingly, the initial instructions of the entire trip, from the Americans, was that Biden would not shake hands with anyone. That is why in the initial ceremony we saw him fist bumping everyone. Biden is old enough that they were concerned about COVID-19 issues and wanted to minimize contact. Biden went off script several times, at Yad Vashem with the survivors, and then some more at other events, but the Americans didnt want him shaking hands either.

the Dayan incident made me think back to Rivka Ravitz - Chief of Staff for President Reuven Rivlin, a Haredi mother of 12 (IIRC) who also refused to shake hands when meeting dignitaries including Prince William and even Joe Biden himself. She did not sing in front of them either, but still, this is not new, though maybe people are more forgiving of Ravitz being that she lives a Haredi lifestyle whereas Dayan was just singing in front of men but then would not shake.

And lastly, of my thoughts at least, nowadays if there is anything that came out of the #metoo movement it is that every person, especially women, decide for themselves when to touch and when to allow to be touched by, any other person. Nobody can decide for anybody else that they must touch someone or be touched by someone.

Yuval Dayan did nothing wrong and everything right. Good for her.

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  1. Just out of curiosity has she said whether she had asked any authorities of the rabbinic nature as to what to do in this type of situation? Kt

  2. When you mentioned Rivka Ravitz and the dignitaries you left out a biggie!
    She met the Pope and the two of them just kind of bowed to each other. I believe he was told in advance too.

    1. I am pretty sure they always notify in advance

  3. Biden's people didn't want the image of him shaking hands with the Saudi prince, and so ahead of time that there was a new variant (fortunately for them, there's always a new variant) and that's why he wouldn't be shaking hands, period.

    And then Biden, whose attention and memory isn't the best and who's a touchy guy in general, got off the plane and shook hands with Lapid and Bennett and Bibi. Whoops. There went that plan.

    I don't know if Biden was told about Dayan, but if so, it either went over his head or he forgot it.

    The people talking about her singing is frankly distasteful. The woman has her standards that she sticks to. That's all that need be said.

  4. According to this article she made it very clear well beforehand and asked it to be made clear to Biden there would be no touching. https://www.israelnationalnews.com/news/356780

  5. It is generally accepted that world leaders respect others' religious practices. When the Queen of England visits a mosque or an Islamic country, she wraps her head acc. to Muslim tradition. You can Google it.

    Query whether anyone would have objected if Dayan was a religious Muslim woman who does not shake hands with men.

  6. The rasbbis have gone unhinged and turned a standard handshake, this time with an elderly world leader in front of TV cameras, into a sex act. Great standard you have set, good luck with your other interactions and general existence in the world.

    1. You sound like Bilaam. Hope your ending is better than his.

    2. They trust for the longer run both genders of society will be healthier and better that way. In countless nuances (eg lack of young gender relationships in Japan)

  7. Kol Hakavod Yuval and your voice is outstanding.


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