In my last post, I warned that the journalists and politicians who are cynically using the actions of a few to blacken the name of an entire community are, in fact, providing ammunition for Israel’s enemies. How right I was. The very next day, obsessive anti-Israel blogger, a self-hating so-called “liberal Jew”, Richard Silverstein, who “searches by candlelight” ( מחפש בנרות as we say in Hebrew) for any little titbit he can use to Israel’s detriment, took up the story in his misnamed blog “Tikun Olam” (translation: “Repairing the World”).
According to Mr. Silverstein, who has often proved to be (how shall I put this kindly?) somewhat less than accurate, “the Taliban Jews in Israel, who force their women to dress in head to toe chador-like clothing are Haredi.”
Since, unlike the repulsive Richard, I don’t like to make sweeping statements without checking my facts, I will not claim that there are no haredi women who dress head to toe in chador-like garments. I will merely state that, in over 37 years of living in this country, I have never seen such a woman, with one exception – the woman who was nicknamed “Ima Taliban” (“Mother Taliban”) – and that was only on the TV news. This was the woman at the centre of an infamous child-abuse case, who was so-named because she dressed from head to foot in garments resembling a burqa. This woman, who is now serving a gaol term for child abuse, belonged to a very small sect of women, who have adopted extreme practices of modesty, which include even a refusal to bathe in the mikveh ( ritual bath). They are not “forced” by their menfolk to dress as they do, they are, in fact, more or less ostracized by the mainstream haredi community – and when Silverstein claims that this is the fastest growing community in Israel and that their birth rates are “through the roof”, he is – as usual – talking through his hat. The sect is generally believed to number no more than a few families and since its movers and shakers are, in fact, women, and the sect is frowned upon by the (male) leadership of the mainstream haredi community, one could claim, in a twisted sort of way, that its existence is, in fact, an expression of female empowerment, rather than a manifestation of the suppression of women. But none of this, of course, is of any interest to the Israel-bashers, such as Silverstein and his ilk. As long as it can somehow be twisted to display Israel in a negative light, anything goes.