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   Home    Last Word    Jew tattoos
Jew tattoos
By Jewish Standard | Published  12/16/2005 | Last Word |

Nathan Burstein

Not long after publicly announcing his partial Jewish ancestry, David Beckham, the world’s most famous soccer player, paid tribute to his newfound heritage with a favorite phrase from the Hebrew Bible — which he tattooed on his forearm.

But Beckham, the soccer superstar for Real Madrid, is only the latest in a small but growing number of celebrities appearing with Hebrew letters and Jewish symbols permanently inked on their skin. Celebrity magazines have reacted with head-shaking amusement, and in some cases irritation, because tattooing, an especially loaded act for Jews after the Holocaust, has for centuries been forbidden by Jewish law.

Beckham, a tabloid fixture in his native England, hasn’t commented publicly on the seeming contradiction between his newly acquired Jewish pride and his latest tattoo, which joins others including the names of his two sons and — ya gotta love it — a not insignificant crucifix on the back of his neck. Yet despite the incongruity, Beckham’s newest body art seems to have been selected with genuine enthusiasm, if not an impressive understanding of Jewish history and law. The tattoo, a quotation from the Song of Songs, reads, in Hebrew, "I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine."

The design, which is not Beckham’s first in a foreign language, also joins a tattoo spelling out his wife’s name — reportedly incorrectly — in Hindi. But in getting the tattoo, Beckham, at least avoided the controversy that resulted from a previous fashion innovation: his public appearance, several years ago, in a fan-donated sweatshirt bearing the image of executed Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann. Oops.

For her part, Beckham’s wife Victoria, the former Spice Girl known as Posh, was so moved by her husband’s Hebrew tattoo that she also had the Song of Songs saying permanently inked into her skin — in her case as part of the couple’s sixth wedding anniversary.

To whatever extent the Beckhams understand the symbolism of their fashion statements, it seems clear that no harm was intended with either the Eichmann shirt or the new "Jewish" tattoos. Instead, the world’s highest paid soccer player and his wife are merely echoing a trend started by Madonna and emanating, not from Paris, Milan or even Beverly Hills, but from Jerusalem.

The Kabbalah Center’s most famous adherent released a music video for her title song the James Bond film, "Die Another Day." The clip portrays the singer battling her alter ego with swords and battle axes and also, rather unexpectedly, wrapping herself in tefillin. The video goes on to display the middle-aged pop star’s right bicep, adorned with the Hebrew letters lamed, alef, and vav — one of the Almighty’s 72 names, according to the Kabbalah Centre’s Web site, and among his protective "instruments of power." The Jerusalem Post



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