Jews and Tattoos


getting a tattoo in Israel is a difficult decision on many levels. M. and I spent our wedding anniversary at a place called Kipod(Porcupine) on King George Street getting matching ink of our son’s initials a few years ago. She got it on her nape. I got it on my arm. It wasn’t the first time for either of us. That being said, a lot of people get tattoos for all the wrong reasons. And they live to regret it for the rest of their lives. So I’ve compiled a short list of pros and cons you should consider before getting that butterfly on your ankle. Or the Chinese character for “Wisdom” that really means “Sad Turtle” on your back.

1. Judaism forbids the desecration of the body in any way and could deny you burial in a Jewish cemetery. This one doesn’t really apply to me since I’ve already made it clear to my family and friends that I want a pseudo Viking send off on the banks of the Kinneret. But if you are Jewish and want to spend eternity surrounded by your deceased relatives you should consider that getting ink is tantamount to idolatry. That’s right. It seems that in Biblical times only pagan worshipers inked themselves up and as a way to differentiate themselves the Jews forbade any form of bodily mutilation. With the exception of that ever so cherished bond of circumcision.

2. Make sure you understand the language. One of the biggest trends among celebrities these days is getting Hebrew language tattoos. Harry Styles from “One Direction” has his sister’s name “Gemma” tattooed on his shoulder. Victoria Beckham has a biblical verse on her nape. If this is what you want please do not use Google or Bing to translate a certain phrase. More often than not the results are catastrophic. Or Hilarious. Depending who you ask. Same goes for Chinese lettering or even English. Spell check it. Then spell check it again. Then make sure your tattoo artist knows how to spell it.

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