Sisterhood Blog

Now, It's the Jewish Men Who Are Wearing Burqas

By Allison Kaplan Sommer

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I’m not one to frequently applaud the approach to female modesty in the ultra-Orthodox community. Particularly during the hottest days of an Israeli summer, seeing Haredi women perspire under layers of clothing, wigs, hats, and heavy wool stockings makes me sweat in sympathy.

And over the past years, we’ve seen the birth of the Jewish burqa-wearers, embracing the most uncomfortable of severe Islamic restrictions — a fully covered body and a veil over the face.

That is why I was pleased, even inspired, after seeing the photos in the Israeli press of the men of the Hasidic Bratslav sect setting off on their annual pilgrimage to the grave of their spiritual father, Rabbi Nahman. Tucked under their hats were black cloths covering their faces, that they were wearing for the airplane journey so as not to defile their vision with unclean images.

The article explains:

“Support for flights without movies” is the name of a small group that several years ago encouraged Haredi travelers not to take regular flights unless they had cardboard that could cover the movie screens on the airplane seats in front of them.

This year the idea caught on that immodest sights may also be a threat outside the airplane — in the airport terminal, for example. So pilgrims are being encouraged to bring scarves along.

“In any cloth shop, ask for a thin lycra cloth 70 cm wide (blue, brown or black ) costing about 20 NIS,” reads one instruction. “It needs to be about 1.5 meters long … which is necessary so it will sit well and not flow in the wind.”

The practice, in my view, represents truly revolutionary approach — a refreshing alternative to demanding that women cover their bodies, dance on the other side of a mechitza, walk on the opposite side of a street, or sitting in the back of the bus.

This is clearly an innovative solution that need not be restricted to flights to the Ukraine. If extremely pious men can’t handle looking at women, let them take responsibility for themselves and cover their faces. I propose it be adopted by any men who truly feel that they are unable control their lustful urges in a modern world that permits women to reveal their hair, legs, shoulders and even the occasional décolletage. Those who feel uncomfortable walking down a city street can simply hang their lycra rag in front of their face. Veil the men, not the women. It’s the perfect solution.


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