Haredi burqa sect

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A member of the sect in Meah Shearim

The Haredi burqa sect (Hebrew: נשות השָאלִים‎, romanizedNeshót haShalím, lit.'"shawl-wearing women"'), is a religious group within Haredi Judaism, primarily concentrated in Israel, which claims that modesty requires a burqa-style covering of a woman's entire body, a shal (plural shalim, "shawl"), including a veil covering the face. The garment is also called frumka, a play of the word frum (Yiddish: "devout") and "burqa". The group, which was estimated to number several hundred in 2011, is concentrated in the town of Beit Shemesh.

The issue has proven controversial in Haredi circles, with vocal condemnation of the face-covering veil by many Haredi organizations, including Edah HaChareidis.


The frumka as a mode of dress for Haredi women was encouraged by Bruria Keren, an Israeli religious leader who taught a strict (by Orthodox standards) interpretation of Jewish scripture for female adherents. Keren, who covers herself in several layers of clothing, claims that covering women was originally a Jewish tradition, and that she has seen a 400-year-old picture of Jewish women covered from head to toe.[1] There are also Sephardic women who claim that their mothers covered their bodies entirely so that one cannot discern their figures. A sect member is reported to have explained that she's "following these rules of modesty to save men from themselves. A man who sees a woman's body parts is sexually aroused, and this might cause him to commit sin. Even if he doesn't actually sin physically, his impure thoughts are sin in themselves." The religious group, which was estimated to number around 100 in 2008 and may have grown to several hundred by 2011,[2] is concentrated in Beit Shemesh, but also has followers in Safed and Jerusalem. The majority of the women have secular backgrounds.[3][4]

In February 2008, Bruria Keren was arrested on charges of severely abusing her children.[4] Identified in court as "B.", she was convicted by the Jerusalem District Court in 2009 on three counts of abuse of a minor or helpless person, and 25 counts of assault in aggravated circumstances, and sentenced to four years in prison. Her husband, identified in court as "M.", was also convicted of 10 counts of assault, and three counts of abuse of a minor or helpless person, and was sentenced to six months in jail.[5]

Other practices[edit]

Bruria Keren does not speak in front of men, and has taken on various ascetic practices. During her prison term, she was hospitalized several times for malnutrition and other maladies as a result of her unwillingness to eat the food provided.[6] Some members of the group reportedly do not believe in vaccination or treatments. On February 8, 2013, one woman's baby allegedly died from untreated flu, with the parents then fleeing from the law. On another occasion, a newborn baby had to be taken to a hospital by force, after the mother refused to go to a hospital to give birth to avoid contact with hospitals and physicians.[7] Other cases of child abuse and neglect have been reported within the group.[8]

Perception in Israeli society[edit]

The Israeli press has adopted the informal epithet "Taliban mothers" to refer to the followers of Bruria Keren's teachings on modesty.[9] According to Miriam Shaviv, the estimated 100 "gullible and needy" Jewish women, for whom Keren was a holy woman, were not forced, but convinced, by Keren "that the ideal for a woman was not to be seen in public (and not even to be heard – she used to stop talking for days on end). Negating themselves, she was telling them, making themselves invisible, was the height of frumkeit, while, in fact, it has no basis whatsoever in halachah".[10] The Israel National Council for the Child has requested that the Welfare Ministry look into the matter and make sure this behavior is not harmful to the girls.[3]

Religious and legal reaction[edit]

The response by other Orthodox schools has been stronger than the rest of the public, and characterized by consternation, particularly against the shal garment.[3] An anonymous pashkevil condemning the "cult" of "epikoros" women was posted in Jerusalem in September 2011. The Edah HaChareidis issued an edict declaring the act of wearing the shawl to be a sexual fetish as deviant as scant clothing or nudity. "There is a real danger that by exaggerating, you are doing the opposite of what is intended, [resulting in] severe transgressions in sexual matters", explains Edah member Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim. The religious court of Beit Shemesh issued a sharp condemnation of the group, and warned Jewish women and girls not to be drawn after them or follow their customs.[11]

People in Beit Shemesh, which includes some of the most religiously radical sects in ultra-Orthodoxy, considered the group of women ridiculously – even psychotically – zealous.[4] Even Sikrikim came out against the phenomenon of wearing veils, which they consider extreme. The women were regularly ostracized and humiliated by the local Haredi community because of their clothing. "We pulled them off buses and yelled at them, 'Desecrators of God's name!'", one inhabitant said.[4] The movement has caused severe distress among the women's husbands and relatives, though most husbands endure it. Some men accuse the covered women of being immodest, because they draw more attention to themselves with their unusual dress.[1][3] One man went to a rabbinical court in an attempt to get a ruling to force his wife to stop wearing the burka. Instead, the court, however, found the woman's behaviour so "extreme" that it ordered the couple to undergo an immediate religious divorce.[11]

In 2014, Israeli police shot a member of the sect after she walked into the Western Wall area without stopping at a security checkpoint. She survived, and was taken to the hospital for treatment.[12]


Yair Nehorai, an Israeli lawyer who has represented individuals involved in the "Taliban Mother" case and other ultra-Orthodox extremists, has written a book loosely based on the real-life "Taliban Mother" case.[13] The book, "Taliban Son", has been released in Hebrew and in German translation.

"Now Susanna was exceeding delicate, and beautiful to behold. But those wicked men commanded that her face should be uncovered, (for she was covered,) that so at least they might be satisfied with her beauty. Therefore her friends and all her acquaintance wept.Daniel 13:31-33 DRA originally in Septuagint (2nd century BC) and was revised by Theodotion, Hellenistic Jewish redactor of the Septuagint text (c. 150 AD).

"O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; For sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.’ SongofSolomon 2:14

"Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; Thine eyes are as doves behind thy veil; Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that trail down from mount Gilead. SongofSolomon 4:1

"Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, And thy mouth is comely; Thy temples are like a pomegranate split open Behind thy veil. Song of Solomon 4:3

Similar movements[edit]

Another Haredi group which requires female adherents to wear such shawls is the Lev Tahor cult of Israeli-Canadian rabbi Shlomo Helbrans.[14] A Messianic claimant and faith healer from Tel Aviv named Goel Ratzon reportedly lived with 32 women who neighbors said "wore modest clothing that neighbors likened to those of religious Muslims" before he was arrested.[15]


  1. ^ a b "A Jewish Movement to Shroud the Female Form". NPR. March 17, 2008. Archived from the original on July 29, 2018. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  2. ^ "Controversy in Israel over burqa-wearing ultra-Orthodox Jews". Asia News. September 2, 2011. Archived from the original on August 21, 2011. Retrieved September 29, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d Akiva Novick:'Taliban women': A cover story Archived July 29, 2018, at the Wayback Machine Ynet, 02.06.11.
  4. ^ a b c d Matthew Wagner (March 27, 2008). "Beit Shemesh 'Burka' cult unveiled". Jerusalem Post.
  5. ^ Tamar Rotem (June 1, 2009). "The Trial of "Mother Taliban"". Haaretz (in Hebrew). Archived from the original on June 19, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  6. ^ Israel: Taliban Mom Set to be Released on Sunday Archived August 13, 2018, at the Wayback Machine The Yeshiva World News, June 6, 2012.
  7. ^ "חשד: תינוק בן שנה מת משפעת לאחר שלא חוסן". Maariv (in Hebrew). February 7, 2013. Archived from the original on May 12, 2014. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  8. ^ "Burka Cult Baby Found Dying, Parents Nowhere To Be Found". Failed Messiah.com. February 8, 2013. Archived from the original on February 11, 2013. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  9. ^ Miriam Shaviv (April 18, 2011). "France's Ban, and Israel's Burka Problem". The Jewish Daily Forward. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  10. ^ Miriam Shaviv (April 28, 2010). "Should Israel Ban the Burka?". The Jewish Chronicle. Archived from the original on August 1, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Adrian Bloomfield (July 30, 2010). "Israeli rabbis clamp down on burka". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on November 18, 2018. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  12. ^ "Police shoot Jewish woman at Western Wall". Archived from the original on August 8, 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  13. ^ "Driving Out the Darkness of the Taliban Mother". Ynet. January 25, 2012. Archived from the original on November 3, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2013.
  14. ^ Oz Rosenberg (October 5, 2011). "Court to rule on legality of Israeli ultra-Orthodox 'Taliban sect'". Haaretz. Archived from the original on October 7, 2011. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
  15. ^ Matthew Kalman (January 18, 2010). "In Israel, the Messiah with More Than 30 'Wives'". Time Magazine. Archived from the original on August 17, 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2012.

External links[edit]