The NIS 2 million bash had already been criticized as excessively extravagant and a waste of public funds, when the girls, who ranged in age from 13 to 16, were informed by production organizers several hours before the event that at the municipality's instruction they had to don black knitted hats and wear long clothing for the performance, said Shlomi Hoffman, the director of the Jerusalem dance troupe.
The controversy over what media were referring to as the "Taliban dance troupe" brought the sensitive issue of religious coercion in the capital to the fore in an election year.
"As an Israeli and a Jerusalemite, it is very painful to see this process of frightening religious extremism," Hoffman said.
Hoffman, 58, who comes from a traditional home, said it was clear that Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski was involved in the "extremist" decision which, he said, started unfolding late Tuesday night when Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Yehoshua Pollack of the mayor's United Torah Judaism Party called the girls "promiscuous" in an interview with a haredi radio station and vowed that they would not appear at the event.
The head of the dance troupe noted that the girls - who were also informed an hour before the event that they could not perform three out of four of their planned dances - had danced in the official state Independence Day ceremony just one month ago on Mount Herzl in virtually the same attire.
"This was not a religious event or an event at the Western Wall, but an event for the public at large for the inauguration of a bridge," Hoffman said.
The girls' parents expressed outrage Thursday over the incident.
"[Up to] this very moment, I cannot understand how we allowed this to happen, and why we did not stop the performance," said Jerusalem resident Marcel Levy, whose 15-year-old daughter was a member of the dance troupe. "Since when do you force 15-year-old girls to cover up their hair?"
"This incident takes us back to the days of the Taliban," said Avi Ben-David, also of Jerusalem, whose 15-year-old daughter was also part of the performance. "This should serve as a wake-up call to Jerusalem's non-haredi voters ahead of the mayoral elections, and maybe this time they will [get out of] their apathetic state."
Jerusalem opposition leader Nir Barkat said Thursday that a red line had been crossed by the haredi city leadership, which smacked of a pattern to drive secular residents out of the city.
However if you don't live according to halacha than the rest of the post is relevant.
When I went to Rensselaer Polytechinic Institute in Troy New York - the Reform Temple had a rule - that the only person allowed to wear a kippah and talis was the cantor - who was a black woman who was not Jewish. Up until recently kippah and talis were embarrassing to the Reform Movement.
A few years ago I met Rabbi Eric Yoffie - President of the Reform Movement - at the International Book Fair in Jerusalem and he mentioned that there have been significant changes in the Reform movement in recent years. One of them was that they had appointed a new head of their New York Seminary - who accepted the job only on the condition that it would henceforth be referred to a beis medrash. He said he was sure many of the founders of the Reform movement were turning over in their graves because of the move towards more traditional forms of worship and behavior.
Bottom line is that people can tolerate and even value differences in others - if it doesn't reflect negatively on them. High standards of modesty can be tolerated by most of us - unless we perceive it as labeling us as deviants.
This talk about Taliban is an indication that the local population views such standards as indicating that they are lax in their moral standards. If they were visiting Saudi Arabia they would have no problem acting so as to not offend the natives. Or if they were hosting a Saudi Arabian diplomat they would not find it problematic to adhere to his standards so as not to offend him.
The standards of the world are changing. Constantly invoking the Taliban or mental illness or lack of common sense - just shows a fear of being judged as morally inferior.
In New York there is a community called Starrett City. The developers of the community were liberals in the old sense of the word - and they wanted to have a truly integrated community. They were advised by sociologists that whites would stay in the community with blacks as long as they were at least 60% of the community. Below that point they felt intimated by minority and would leave. So Starrett City introduced a rule that the whites must always be at least 60%.
The above rule applies to other communities. As the native population increasing views it self as a shrinking majority which is losing control over the values of the community - they get frightened and insecure and resentful.
That is one of the reasons that at least under Mayor Kolleck there was an attempt to have homogeneous neighborhoods of secular and religious Jews.
Bottom line is that it is a common reaction of the indigenous population - and there is no simple solution. There is usually a lot of very negative feelings to those who make us feel inferior and/or immoral when we have had a high view of ourselves up until the outsiders moved in.