When ultra-orthodox Israeli Jews, especially those of the Haredi sect, make the pilgrimage to the tomb of their revered Rabbi Nachman in Uman, Ukraine, they wish not to be subjected to the “evils and temptations” of the modern world.
So the most pious bring pieces of cardboard that they use to cover the movie screens in the airplane seats in front of them.
When this didn’t keep out all the possible bad influences, they resorted to using dark-colored scarves that they drape around their faces to block their peripheral vision — and sometimes a little bit more. Like so:
I looked into the Haredim a little bit after encountering the photo below on Facebook the other day:
Those are two Haredi Jewish women and their kids. The children are decked out in costumes especially for Purim, but the adults — the ladies, at least — dress like this whenever they show themselves in public. Modesty, they call it.
Naturally, when they take a bus, the Haredi men make them sit in the back. Sometimes the men try to force non-Haredi women into the rear section too.
Speaking of buses: Israeli transportation companies recently stopped running bus ads, because the billboards were always being vandalized by protesting Haredim, opposed as they are to photos of insufficiently-covered womenfolk.
Secular Israeli women and Western tourists are often yelled at when they enter Haredi neighborhoods, for not dressing modestly enough.
This culture war has been going on for decades — in the 1980s, ultra-Orthodox Jews bombed Tel Aviv-area newsstands that sold secular magazines and newspapers — but the Haredim have been getting stronger in number, and tensions have grown.
A big part of that is demographics: Haredi couples have an average of eight children, versus two kids for secular Israeli families. Of the country’s 5.4 million Jews, one million are already of the ultra-orthodox variety.
Most are shomer negiah (“observant of touch”), meaning they do not tolerate any physical contact with someone of the opposite sex, except immediate family. The men are especially wary of a woman’s
cooties touch, including a handshake, as they consider a menstruating woman (a niddah) to be unclean. Unmarried women are regarded as being niddah by definition — always bleeding, always impure.
The Haredim are so offended by bare skin that they successfully campaigned for the removal of photos from the holocaust museum in Jerusalem, on the grounds that the nakedness of concentration-camp corpses was an intolerable affront to the religious eye.
It’s all perfectly perfectly quaint, or perfectly ludicrous — take your pick.
I’ll leave you with this dual image.
Considering how much these tribes have in common (including their misogyny), isn’t it mindboggling that fundamentalist Muslims have no greater desire than to see Jews massacred, and that fundamentalist Jews wish death and destruction upon their neighbors across the Israeli border?
If a clearer demonstration of the random and noxious nature of religious faith is needed, I’m having a hard time providing one just now.