Haredi Burqa Sect

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Haredi Burqa Sect

Photographer: Abir Sultan


Increasingly prominent in the streets of Jerusalem is a dress code found more commonly at home in Islamic nations. But members of the Haredi burqa sect, shal-wearing women of the Jewish religious group, have adopted the burqa-style covering of the entire body, an action that has proven controversial in Haredi circles. Ultra-orthodox (Haredi) women, who have adopted the covering of the entire body with black cloth, including a shal (shawl in English) claim it is worn for modesty purposes. From just around 100 in 2008, the number of women who have adopted the style of dress has grown to several hundreds across the country.

The Haredi women who have adopted the style of dress, more niqab than a burqa, claim that by keeping the woman's modesty and covering the entire body, they will receive salvation, and say that the holy mothers of the Jewish people have covered themselves some 3,500 years ago. They are also trying to fit themselves to the local dress code of the region, including countries like Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq, for example.

The women of the group follow the teachings of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, who was known as The Rambam (one of the great arbiters of Jewish laws throughout the ages) and is the writer of many Jewish Laws. He said in the 12th century that Jewish woman should keep their modesty and cover all the body when they go out into the street.

The group is concentrated mainly in the cities of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Safed and they raise many controversies in the Haredi community in Israel. Most of the modern rabbis reject the complete body coverage for the reason that it is too extreme to cover the entire body and that it is not was the intention of the Rambam ruling and Israeli media has occasional referred to them as Taliban mothers.