Who or what is convincing apparently non-mentally-ill religious Jewish women to
parade around like human laundry baskets? I am referring to the phenomenon of
the “Taliban women” recently condemned and lambasted by the Eda Haredit (Badatz)
for ironically being a little too modest, even for them.
beginning, there was one woman in Beit Shemesh (where else?) who decided to
cover her head and face with a shawl. Since she herself was indicted and
convicted of child abuse, and her children admitted to engaging in incest, one
would think it unlikely she’d engender a following.
How little you know.
The movement is not only alive and kicking, but apparently growing. How much is
a matter of great debate. Some claim there are no more than 11 people involved,
while Rabbi Avraham Ziat claims there are close to 10,000 adherents to these new
guidelines all over Israel.
The Eda Haredit coming out publicly against
the women seems to have been prompted by a groom who managed to marry twice
before his 18th birthday, without bothering to get a divorce. Apparently, the
first marriage was arranged by his veil-wearing mom when he was 16 to a
21-year-old woman (grooms are scarce these days, with the best “catches” in the
yeshiva world unabashedly demanding up-front agreements on dowries of $100,000
and more before agreeing to even meet a girl).
But after the wedding, the
bride, also a veil-wearer, said it wasn’t possible for her to go to the mikve
(ritual bath) because that would require her not only to take off her veil, but
to actually immerse naked in the water. Quite reasonable, don’t you think? The
groom, apparently not on such a high spiritual level, didn’t agree, and found
another, more willing veiled woman to take her place.
“To our sorrow, we
the Badatz have listened to testimony regarding the iniquities of these women
that have uprooted Torah from Israel, acting on their own, adopting a lifestyle
devoid of Torah and educational values. They don’t send their offspring to
Talmud Torah and schools; they prevent [them from] receiving medical care even
in life-threatening cases, as well as matters not fitting to be discussed
pertaining to chuppah and kiddushin [nuptials and betrothal]. Therefore we are
warning Jewish women and girls that it is prohibited to join them and one must
distance oneself from these customs and ways since ultimately they will, chas
v’shalom [God forbid], lead to destruction and annihilation.” (Thanks to Yeshiva
World News for the translation.)
I applaud Badatz for this statement, even
though it is a bit surprising. They have never in the past complained about
their followers endangering lives by, for example – refusing to vaccinate their
children, or more recently boycotting Hadassah in solidarity with a
Munchhausen-by-proxy haredi woman who was starving her son to
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Also, since private Talmud Torahs catering to every sector pop up
daily without anyone seeming to object, and existing Badatz-approved schools are
refusing admission to veil-wearer offspring, I wonder, where is this complaint
So what is it, really, that has pushed the good rabbis of Badatz
over the edge? It couldn’t be, could it, that these women stole their thunder by
taking the next inevitable stop on the modesty mafia train themselves, could it?
In other words, not that they are veiling themselves, but that they thought of
As Tamar Rotem wrote in Haaretz
, “It is hard to ignore the sense that
part of the impetus for the Badatz condemnation of the group... derived from
men’s feeling of intimidation by these women.”
Indeed, Badatz rabbi
Gavriel Pappenheim was quoted as saying: “The moment they let the women lead
their path, it developed into wantonness because they do not know how to
A bit ironic, wouldn’t you say, after a decades-old campaign led
by extremist elements in the haredi world to make their women invisible, a
campaign which started with sealing off tiny, inhospitable women’s sections in
synagogues, and requiring separate gender seating in separate halls for
weddings? A campaign that included fighting against electing women to religious
councils (kudos to Leah Shakdiel), signs on public streets demanding every woman
cover up according to some male-invented fantasy of how to erase women’s
It escalated with the closure of women’s seminaries for higher
education, segregated buses and streets and waiting rooms and bakeries and
barriers at the Kotel (Western Wall), the erasure of all women’s faces from
street ads... It gained momentum with the idea, pushed at every opportunity,
that women’s lack of modesty was responsible for every disaster befalling the
haredi community – including bombs on buses.
Not knowing when to stop is
surely not a problem only of the veiled women.
When you interview one of
these women, as did Ynet last week, by giving written questions to her husband,
Eliezer Machpud, she says the following: “This dress is my joy and happiness. To
insist I take it off is like making me walk on thorns without shoes.... We are
There is nothing surprising in this. The same kind of
lobotomized responses were given during the fight over segregated buses, with
haredi women talking about how they love to sit in the back of the
But one thing, it seems, everyone in the haredi world can agree on.
Too modest or not modest enough, it’s perfectly all right to scream at women,
throw things at them, curse them, publicly humiliate them, and in the case of
the veil wearers, tear off their clothes. I experienced some of this personally
the first time I inadvertently got on to a mehadrin bus a few years
I’d love to read Badatz condemning that as against Torah
Let’s be clear: the veil wearers are cuckoo. But they
didn’t lose their marbles all by themselves. A whole society was pushing them
down this path, the same society that now seems so shocked that they have
finally gone over the edge. As for their claim that this harks back to “ancient
Jewish custom,” try imagining Isaac meeting a Rebekah who looked like that, or
Jacob meeting Rachel at the well. Right then and there, it would have spelled
the end of the Jewish people.
Anyway, if you’re going to be crazy, why
adopt Muslim customs? Can’t the Jewish brain think of its own stringencies?
have a modest proposal (with apologies to Jonathan Swift). Since God-fearing,
pious Jewish women are separated from men from birth and taught to stringently
keep covered at all times, we cannot reasonably expect them to has v’shalom
into bed naked with a man (so what if he is her husband?).Baruch Hashem,
modern technology can solve this problem. What I suggest is that artificial
insemination take the place of this immodest act. The men will deliver their
half via other men to women doctors who will see that the next generation gets
started in modesty and piety. Now when the kids are born, the boys will be sent
by rocket ship to one planet, and the girls to another...
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