Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sukkos & demands of modesty -

YNet reports:

Any women who may be planning to attend the traditional Simchat Beit Hashoeva festivities (water-drawing festival) in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim this Sukkot may want to think twice, as they may no be allowed to enter the area.

The water-drawing festival is a time-honored tradition held in the Hasidic courts of the capital for decades. The celebrations are a known crowd draw, with some 15,000 people visiting the events every night, in the past few years.

The last two years have also seen Meah Shearim's streets divided into men and women's galleries for the sake of chastity; but this year's festivities have been clouded by a demand made by the extreme groups within the neighborhood's community, such as the Sicarii, which demand women be kept out of the festival altogether.

Some of the splinter groups have even gone as far as threatening to forcibly prevent women from entering the area; gathering some 2,000 signatures to that effect and threatening to use "a foul-smelling chemical agent" to drive people away. A pashkevil (religious flyer) titled "Enough!", which was hung throughout the neighborhood over the past week, declared that "the residents of the Mea Shearim neighborhood hereby inform all the residents of the Holy Land and the visitors coming to celebrate Sukkot in the holy city of Jerusalem, that our neighborhood is not a tourist center.

"Let it be made clear that this year we will not allow tourists and visitors to stroll in our streets at all hours of the night, under any circumstances." Concerns over possible riots have led to several joint meetings between officials from the chastity squads and the Hassidic synagogues, as the matter was even brought to the attention of the Orthodox Righteous Court of Law.

The court ruled that the festivities would end each nigh, no later than 12:30 am, instead of by 2:30 am, as they did in past years.

The court further ruled that the women's gallery would be restricted to the wives and daughters of the city's various religious courts, who would require a special permit to attend. Visitors will not be allowed in the women's gallery.


  1. This post raises two separate issues that have been lumped into one.

    First, the inmates are running the asylum again. There's really a group openly calling itself the Sicarii? Does the Gemara in Gittin refer to the original group by this name in a positive sense? I mean, really! Besides, the mishna describes how our ancestors went so far as to put up a balcony so women could attend the simcha even though techinically making additions to the Temple was forbidden. Doesn't that strongly hint that they felt hat women should attend?

    Or are our sages no longer frum enough for these folks?

    However, the second issue is quite different. I can fully empathize with people not wanting tourists walking around their neighbourhood gawking at them. Whenever I've visited Meah Shearim I've been careful to stay awawy from the actual neighbourhoods because of that. This is a more reasonable demand and should have been raised separately.

  2. While some public SBH celebrations may have an unfortunate record of not resulting in the correct tzniusdik environment, the question needs to be asked;
    Is this latest fad of cheromim & blanket issurim / gezeros, etc, really a practical way to correct any problems? And also, where were the women during the original SBH in the bhm"k ? Surely some arrangement can be made to include them in a historically appropriate, and tzniusdik role ?


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