Friday, March 7, 2008

Jewish Trends

Going under cover: the Jewish women who are taking the veil, March 7, 2008
Sheera Frenkel in Beit Shemesh, Israel

Several cars slow and one stops when Sarah walks down the street in her home town of Beit Shemesh, an ultra-orthodox Jewish enclave west of Jerusalem.

On this morning, the streets teem with women herding their children to school in the modest garb and head-coverings befitting their religious beliefs. For years, Sarah walked among them similarly dressed, but today a dark cloth is secured across her face, hiding everything save her eyes. It resembles the head-to-toe covering that is associated with religious Muslim women in the Gulf States.

“People in cars driving by often stop and stare. Some people are rude — they shout things at me because they think I am Arab,” said Sarah (not her real name).

Sarah is part of a budding movement of about 100 Jewish women in this city who have begun covering their bodies. Some cover just their hair and neck; others wrap their entire face, save their eyes, with the loose cloth. They call their head-covering a sal, refusing to acknowledge the resemblance to its Muslim twin, the hijab. In Beit Shemesh, the political line is strictly right wing, with many of the religious leaders advocating expulsion of Arabs from the biblical boundaries of the land of Israel. But the two communities may have more in common than they think.

Orthodox Jewish women have long concealed their hair with a scarf or wig upon marriage. Muslim women, who don a covering upon reaching puberty, traditionally sheath their necks as well as their hair. Depending on the country, the covering could be fashioned into a number of variations such as the chador, a loose cloak worn by women in Iran, or the burka, an enveloping garment that allows only for mesh netting over the eyes, worn in Afghanistan.

“The full body, or full face covering that people think is only part of the Arab world actually started with Jewish women,” said a woman who asked to be identified by her first initial, M.

Photo from the article in The Times online.

Read the full article by clicking on the link in the title.

For more on the Jewish headcovering, from one lady's blog, please read:
It's Time For...ASK A JEW!, by "metalia", a wife and working mother who covers at synagogue and has a large assortment of hats, according to the blog entry, in which she answers a lot of questions about Judaism, as she understands things, and even puts a disclaimer at the end to remind you that she's not claiming to know everything. Here's part of what she wrote, but you can read her answers to many questions about Jewish Orthodoxy at her blog:
Essentially, Orthodox Jewish women cover their hair after they get married for reasons of modesty. There are two factors that serve as the basis for this requirement: One is that hair is considered--for lack of a better word-- "sexay", and it’s a woman's literal crowning glory, so the general idea there is that the woman covers it so only her husband (and immediate family, depending upon her customs) can see it. The other rationale for the rule is that hair covering is simply an outward, visual sign that a woman is married.

Your point that the wigs can (and for the most part, DO) look better than a woman's real hair is well-taken. In fact, some Orthodox women actually don't wear wigs (choosing instead to wear only hats/scarves) for the reasons that you cited; namely, that they feel uncomfortable doing something that is supposed to embody modesty while wearing a wig that looks ten times better than their real hair ever could. Also, if you are someone who believes hair should be covered solely to be an outward, obvious sign of marriage, you probably would wear hats exclusively, since that's a lot more obvious than a wig. Oh, and I should point out that there are many women who switch back and forth between hats and wigs.

Without going into too much detail, there are TONS of variations on the intricacies of hair covering. There are questions on whether the rule requires HAIR covering (i.e., covering all of your hair), or HEAD covering (covering the crown of your head, and allowing your hair to stick out underneath). Some women will ensure that all their hair is covered when they're in public, but will uncover it in their house, no matter who's there. Some, as noted, don't let anyone see it but their husbands. As with most things in life, people do what they feel is right for them.

Post a Comment