Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ultra-Orthodox In Israel: Keeping Cool While Keeping Customs

In the hot sun of a Jerusalem afternoon, kids wait for a fountain to turn on.

When water spouts into the air, 9-year-old Tzipora Baranas jumps right in. She's wearing black tights, a black, below-the-knee skirt and a long-sleeved black shirt.

"It's fun when the water spritzes up in my face," she says.

She is Orthodox Jewish and her outfit is in deference to religious modesty. She says she's not hot at all, despite the temperature hitting the 90s and the dark clothes covering all but her face and hands.

Of course, she is dripping wet at the moment.

Nearby, in the shade, an Orthodox mother, Rinat Kuperman, says it's good that the city has a place where kids can get wet without having to wear a swimsuit in public.

"They understand that people like us want to be happy in the summer and still keep ourselves like we want," she says. "Covered and refreshed."

Her family swims only in pools with times separated by gender, in keeping with their religious custom of covering their bodies when away from home and in the presence of members of the opposite sex. Kuperman isn't dressed all in black, but her skirt brushes her ankles. She wears a long-sleeved blouse over a T-shirt and has wrapped a colorful scarf over her hair.

Most Israelis are secular, and this record-breaking summer heat means plenty of shorts and skimpy tops on the beaches and streets. Choices for modest dress — including those that keep people covered up even in the summer heat — draw on religious rules, community norms and personal beliefs.[...]

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