Friday, February 18, 2011

Behind The Black Veil

No, these are not Taliban women in Afganistan, Pakistan, Iran or any other muslim country. The above picture with the women and girls in black was taken in Israel, in the city of Beit Shemesh , near Jerusalem.

'Beit Shemesh' ('House of the Sun' or 'Temple of the Sun' in Hebrew) , named after the sun-goddess Shemesh worshipped here in antiquity, was founded in 1950 near the ruins of the ancient biblical town with the same name.
This city has besides secular residents, a large orthodox population which includes many streams of religious practice , and an ultra-orthodox sector (haredim), It also has... an impressive number of immigrants from english-speaking countries (USA, Great Britain, South Africa, Australia etc..).

The phenomenon of women and girls completely covered up in layers of cloth (with only a few unseen holes in the eye area) is called the Shalim Movement - 'shalim' meaning shawls, veils, cloak. It's strange, as it is not based on the bible, on tradition, or on some religious law; it is more likely a trend acquired from our muslim neighboring countries. The leader of this sect, Malka Benizri, comes indeed from a jewish family that has its origin in a muslim country, and so, I suppose, are most of the women that belong to it.

This sect is still a minority but it's spreading fast among neighborhoods.
The key word with these women is 'tzniut'(modesty). They meet once a week and talk about it. Well, they do take modesty to a level unknown to Judaism, perhaps known only to Islam. Some of them may even do it against their husbands' will. There were reports of girls being beaten up because they refused to wear shalim (the former leader of this movement, a mother of ten, is in prison on charges of child abuse).

I don't live in that area and don't have to stumble upon them, but it's worrying. I think this phenomenon should not be encouraged (to say the least) for several reasons: It's against Nature, it's exaggerated and extreme (extremity could lead to other forms of extremity), the shawls that also cover the whole face including eyes and ears create social barriers , may damage the eyes and physically endanger the wearer (especially the small girls).


  1. It almost feels like these women are under the kind of condemnation that we are to be freed from as Christians. I had no idea this was happening, or growing.

    A most interesting post sweet Duta!

    God bless you and have an amazin' weekend!

  2. This is so disconcerting to see. I am in complete agreement that this is "against Nature" and "exaggerated and extreme." Your picture is an interesting contrast - the women and girls in black with the modern looking buildings in the background.

  3. This kind of grabs at you. I can see how it could be damaging to the welfare of the children. It looks like it would be quite warm and quite dangerous. So sad.
    until next time... nel

  4. I would find this unusual in my neighborhood also

  5. I absolutely agree with you Duta! Exaggeration and extreme religious fanaticism is unacceptable...

  6. I'm sad for the ones who feel they need to go to such extreme measures to be modest. Purity is a thing of the heart, not an outward appearance. Also, I don't think this is "progress" -to me this is going back to the Middle Ages -seems like we haven't learned anything from history!

  7. This is an unusual history. It sounds like a modern story that Judaism had to deal with in ancient Biblical history. It is always more poignant when you see young girls dressed this way too.

  8. Nezzy,

    This movement is seen by some as a reaction against men who wish women to be reduced to merely shadows, and by some as a reaction against other religious women who don't dress according to minimal othodox standards.


    You've got a very observing eye , Bica. The women in the picture look indeed as belonging to the Middlwe Ages , whereas in the bacckground there are modern buildings.


    Yes, children are the main victims of this trend. Not only is this draping in layers of cloth dangerous, but the girls are also the laughing stock of the other children in town.

    Stuff could be worse,

    You should hope this phenomenon never comes to your neighborhood; it's not a pleasant sight.

    Phivos Nicolaides,

    I'm glad you agree with me. I think it stands to reason that this religious trend is by all means, exaggerated and dangerous.


    "Purity is a thing of the heart, not an outward appearance" - exactly, very well put. It applies of course to what these women call 'modesty'.

    J on tour@jayspaze,

    Judaism finds it hard to deal with such a phenomenon, especially that it involves small girls. The great majority of religious leaders, are, as far as I know, against it.

  9. DUTA:

    This is quite a common sight in India. May Muslim women here in India are completely covered in black purdah except for the eye region. Kids are not covered, though. I have a friend who is very modern and outspoken and likes wearing the purdah. In fact, she took this decision only when she was 28 that she would cover herself with the purdah. What is interesting is that her family and husband don't want her to be covered but she does it.

    Joy always,

  10. Interesting indeed . I haven't seen one here.

    Happy weekend my friend.

  11. The world will be a happier place when women feel truly free to wear what makes them comfortable. Too often they are pressured to reveal too much or nothing at all.

  12. I couldn't agree more- great post. I guess this has been on my mind lately so it was good to stumble upon someone elses informative perspective~
    Regards, Regina

  13. Hi Duta, I am interested that this is a sect (is that the right word?) of Judaism. When I first saw the picture, I automatically thought I was looking at Muslims.
    Modesty is one thing; but this is something else. Women need not to dress seductively, I agree, but completely shrouding the body goes beyond what is required to accomplish that. It diminishes a woman's humanity. My opinion....

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  15. Interesting post, Duta.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on my post. However, I am afraid you are incorrect regarding the issue of caffeine in chocolate. Chocolate contains both caffeine and theobromine in varying amounts, depending on the type of cacao used in making the chocolate:
    This link also mentions that there is a rumor going around the internet that chocolate does not have caffeine but the rumor is untrue.

  16. Susan Deborah,

    I've just learnt a new word from you "purdah', thanks.
    Indeed, in muslim communities everywhere it is common sight; it's based on tradition and probably on some religious law. But here, in Israel it's unusual and in many cases unacceptable even by husbands.


    Well, it's spreading, so You'll probably get a chance to see it someday.
    Have a happy weekend , too!

    JoLynne Lyon,

    I agree with your opinion. Even nowadays, in the modern era, women in certain places are not free to dress as they wish, speak freely, go out unaccompanied.

    Kilauea Poetry,

    Welcome to my little blog!
    Thank you for your kind words.


    Some call it sect or cult, some call it movement or trend. This kind of dressing in black layers of cloth Attracts Attention, so where is the modesty here? I do agree also with your opinion that "it diminishes a woman's humanity".

    Graceful Moments,

    Thanks a lot for the info and the link. Anyway, both caffeine and theobromine are stimulants, so we should perhaps beware of both. Pity, as dark bitter chocolate (starting with 60% cocoa) is considered helpful in memory preserving.

  17. Duta,

    As I gaze at your photo, I can't help but consider that these women who are professing their ideals of modesty through their dress are actually achieving the opposite effect. There is another definition given to 'modesty'

    'Fashions and fads at times test the limits of community standards of modesty. People can be subjected to peer pressure, both to conform to community standards or to flout them. Community standards of modesty however may be driven by a sense of superiority, which contrasts some definitions of modesty.'

    Since this movement uses abuse to promote its ideals, I fail to see any humility in them. I also believe that women who become fanatical in their beliefs can become much more brutal than men. I would be fearful of this movement and would hope that the authorities might take a stand to protect the children being forced into its ways.

    Be safe, my friend.

  18. Thanks for educating this Southern. I do not believe it is modesty but insanity. I hope the younger girls learn to listen to their inter self and not those ridiculous leader. What a shame these practices are forced on others. Peace

  19. Omygoodness, Duta, I could not agree with you more. This goes against nature. People are not meant to be walking around in tents -- whether for religious reasons or any other reason. First of all, they are not getting enough Vitamin D, and that is impacting their unborn children. Second, it is classifying woman as sub-human, having to hide themselves. It's sick and it should be stopped.

  20. I took the time to read all the other comments as this was such an interesting topic. I agree with Jeannette about the purity and with C. Hummel Kornell about exaggerating the point of modesty and purity to an extreme therefore being immodest. Very interesting and thought provoking as usual dear DUTA!

  21. C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson,

    I too believe these womem achieve the opposite efect; the veils make them stand out and also point at separatism which is hardly a sign of modesty.

    Lady Di Tn,

    I do not know what to call it, but modesty it is not. Forcing girls to put on the veils - is the worst of this trend, and the girls should rebel against this practice.


    "...walking around in tents" - LOL.
    Indeed,the way they dress is inhuman, and lack of vitamin D could be very damaging to these covered up women and their daughters.


    As always, you are very thorough; you take the time to read everything, and sum it all up beautifully. Thank you.

  22. I think we live in perilous times. The phenomenon described by you is not unique. The whole world is changing.
    Behind the black veil... certainly they hide something.

  23. robert,

    The world seems to be going crazy (people, nations, climate, everything).Some sort of craziness - that's what is probably hidden behind the black veil.

  24. Duta, first, thank you for joining/visiting my blog. I had no idea that this was an issue in Israel, but I have to agree with some who said this is a time of change. I do believe that change is happening as we speak and some are taking extreme measures. Are they being forced to dress this way, or is this a choice they are making?

    Thank you for sharing.

    Love & Light, CindyLew

  25. Cindy Lew's Studio,

    As ar as I know, these women are not being forced by some religious or political authority. This movement is an initiative coming from one or several women who see themselves as leaders. With the girls - that's an other matter. There were reports of cases where force had been exercised on them by mothers and /or teacher.

  26. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hate to see anyone being forced into anything, especially young children. When you are an adult, if that is what you choose, then so be it, but for the younger ones that have no choice, it is hard for me to take. Being a teacher myself I know how much influence you can have over a student if you choose..... Positive or Negative!!! Thank you for sharing all your information with us.

    Love & Light, CindyLew

  27. This is so scary. Those poor girls living under such oppression.

    Thank you so much for wishing me congratulations on my pregnancy. I will try to get some baby bump pictures posted in the next week or so.

  28. Cindy Lev's Studio,

    I totally agree with your words.

    Trudy Callan,

    I'll be looking forward to the "baby bump pictures".

  29. Men should be modest as well, but have you ever seen any men of whatever faith walking around in anything similar to this?
    The answer is of course no.

  30. AngelMc,

    You're so right! In the arab world, men also have some sort of cover called 'kafia' but it doesn't cover the face and the whole body like in this case of the "shalim" trend.

  31. Multumesc mult pentru comentariu.

  32. I don't like to see Jews imitating Muslims. I also think that anyone, male or female, who goes out in public with the face covered should be deemed a security risk and apprehended immediately.

  33. TallTchr,

    " risk.. " - that's it; that's the correct term for this trend, and face covering in public should be forbidden.

  34. I glanced at the picture and I truly felt frightened. I wonder what those women truly hide under all those layers of clothing-- Fears? intimidation? alienation? guilt?

    Another interesting post, dear Duta!


  35. Hold my hand: a social worker's blog,

    Yes, it is frightening. I think they hide none of the things you've mentioned. These women claim that's true modesty.

  36. That would all be so depressing to me! Wow!

  37. Cindy,

    Hi Cindy, It's good to hear from you. I agree, the sight of these black covered women and girls is depressing.