No, this isn’t a dementor, or a modern art installation.
This isn’t even, as you are more likely to expect, a Muslim woman wearing a burqa.
It was on a sweltering hot day, of 80 degree weather, that photographer Yakov Lederman saw this sight in Beit Shemesh — a Jewish woman and her two daughters, a dark black cloth covering them, head to toes. This video that he took of them went viral on Facebook, with over 2400 shares.
משפחת טליבאן מבית שמש באחדות חמימה ודביקה לכבוד השרב.נחשו כמה יש בפנים…Posted by Yaakov Lederman on Thursday, May 28, 2015
A day later, the daughter of Shas’ spiritual leader, Adina Bar Shalom, said the following in response to the ultra-Orthodox tendency to blur out women in photographs:
“If a man cannot look at a woman and say ‘What a healthy and handsome woman the Almighty has created,’ then I do not know what is happening to us… And I fear that if this continues, we will have to veil our faces.”
Little did she know that women in Beit Shemesh have been veiling their faces for years. The Haredi Burqa Sect, or the ‘Taliban Women’ as Israeli media sometimes calls them, has a few hundred members. It was created by a woman, Bruria Keren, who said:
“I follow these rules of modesty to save men from themselves. A man who sees a woman’s body parts is sexually aroused, and this might cause him to commit sin. Even if he doesn’t actually sin physically, his impure thoughts are sin in themselves.”
In 2008, Keren was arrested on charges of severely abusing her children. Yet, more and more women are choosing to abide by her standards of modesty.
These women cover themselves, barely leave their houses and don’t speak to men. They wear many layers of clothes underneath a burqa or a shawl. Their daughters must also be covered. According to the sect, women should be invisible. And underneath their many layers of clothing, sweating and silent — they are.
It’s not surprising that in a society that blurs out images of women, where men can assault women and little girls on the street for not being modest enough, women would resort to such extreme measures of modesty.
When everything about a woman from her voice to the tapping of her shoes is a source of great temptation and sin, then it makes sense that women want to float around under piles of fabric like dark ghosts. But does that make it right?
Lior Zaltzman is the Forward’s Digital Fellow and a wearer of many hats. When she’s not tweeting from the Forward’s account, she’s creating illustrations, graphics and lists for the various Forward blogs. She can also make comics out of your bad dates in #OYDATE. She graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in cartooning. Lior Zaltzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @liorca.