Deputy mayor: Lupolianski supported demand for girls to cover hair at bridge bash

"I brought the issue up with the mayor, and of course the mayor agreed with me," deputy mayor says.

Lupolianski smiley 88 (photo credit:)
Lupolianski smiley 88
(photo credit: )
Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yehoshua Pollack said Friday that Mayor Uri Lupolianski fully supported his demand that a girls' dance troupe performing at last week's inauguration of the Calatrava bridge at the entrance to the capital cover their hair and wear modest clothing. Both men are members of United Torah Judaism. The clothing controversy, which drowned out the celebrations and led to screaming headlines in the mainstream Israeli press such as 'Iran is here,' brought the issue of religious coercion by the haredi-run city hall to the fore in an election year. "I brought the issue up with the mayor, and of course the mayor agreed with me," Pollack said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post. "Why else was the planned event changed?" The dancers, who ranged in age from 13 to 16, were informed several hours before Wednesday's event by production organizers that, at the municipality's instruction, they had to cover their hair and wear long clothing. The spectacle of the secular girls clad in black ski caps and cloaks on a balmy June evening provoked outrage among their parents, secular residents of the city, organizers and City Council opposition leader Nir Barkat, who lambasted the municipality's diktat as "extremist" religious coercion. Pollack defended the demand for the girls to conform to the standards of haredi residents, and said that all sectors of the public had to be allowed to watch the state-run event without discomfort. "The religious public is strict about modest clothing, even for 13-year-old girls," Pollack said. Pollack, who had called the dance "promiscuous," said the organizer's decision to choose black ski caps for the girls - as opposed to colorful or white hats - was a "provocation" to prove that the "we are the Taliban." While religious Jewish women cover their hair or wear a hat after marriage, unmarried women - and certainly girls - do not. The head of the Jerusalem dance group, Shlomi Hoffman noted that the troupe - which was also informed an hour before the event that they could not perform three of their four planned dances - had danced in the official state Independence Day ceremony a month ago on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl in virtually the same attire that was rejected on Wednesday. "As an Israeli and a Jerusalemite it is very painful to see this process of frightening religious extremism," Hoffman said. Lupolianski spokesman Gidi Schmerling had said in a terse statement that Pollack does not speak for the mayor. He declined all further comment over the weekend. The move comes against a backdrop of political infighting between Lupolianski and Pollack over who will be their party's candidate in November's mayoral election. Lupolianski is seen as eager to win the approval of the spiritual leader of UTJ's Lithuanian Degel Hatorah branch, 98-year-old Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, to run again, while Pollack, from UTJ's hassidic Agudat Yisrael wing, is adamant that the mayor keep a party rotation agreement signed before the last election whereby another haredi will be the party's candidate in this year's race. "It is clear that Lupolianski will not continue serving as mayor," Pollack said in the interview. He said the brief statement by the mayor's spokesman about the bridge incident was a blatant attempt to portray the Lupolianski as the "moderate nice guy" and himself as the "extremist" ahead of the election. Despite the NIS 2 million inauguration of the NIS 250m. bridge, it will remain unused for about two years because of repeated delays in construction of Jerusalem's light rail system.