Jewish Journal


August 1, 2010

Jewish Burkas and Muslim Underwear


One of the less predictable fashion trends in Israel is the adoption of the burka by some haredi women.  This is not new: it was first reported in Haaretz in 2007, in an article headlined “This Isn’t Kabul: It’s Beit Shemesh.”  From Beit Shemesh it has spread to several other towns as a more complete means of safeguarding women’s sexual modesty.

The rabbinate is now responding.  London’s Jewish Chronicle reported last week that “The Eda Charedit rabbinic organisation will soon release a statement condemning the practice of the Beit Shemesh women, Shlomo Pappenheim, a senior member of the management committees, said.”  The paper describes the organization as “the religious body admired by the most religiously hard-line elements in Israel - even the Neturei Karta anti-Zionist sect.”

The London Telegraph says that the edict will declare “burka wearing a sexual fetish that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.”  It quotes Rabbi Pappenheim as saying, “There is a real danger that by exaggerating, you are doing the opposite of what is intended [resulting in] severe transgressions in sexual matters.”

Meanwhile, Hamas authorities in Gaza, according to the Jerusalem Post, have “banned shops from displaying women’s underwear in their windows, saying it offends public morality.”  This is the latest development in Hamas’s efforts “to restore public morals in Palestinian society,” including a ban on women riding on motor scooters behind men and a prohibition of women smoking tobacco through a hookah in public.

Maybe we do live in two different worlds.

Bob Goldfarb is the president of the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity in Los Angeles and Jerusalem and a regular columnist for eJewishPhilanthropy.com.  His Twitter feed on Jews, the arts, and Jewish culture can be found at Twitter.com/bobgoldfarb.

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