One of the strange new sights seen in Jerusalem is girls ages 6 to 10 walking to school through the Meah Shearim-Geula neighborhoods of Jerusalem to school covered from head to toe. Up until recently, it was only common for wives and mothers belonging to some of the lesser-known, more extreme movements within Charedi Judaism.
These girls are not admitted to regular Charedi schools and therefore attend schools in Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem that were established exclusively for them by their parents. Obviously, they are not subject to oversight by the Education Ministry.
The reactions from the wider Charedim community have mostly been a mix of surprise and scorn, although there are some people who try to pull their head coverings off, saying things such as “You look like a suicide bomber” or “I guess your face is ugly if you keep it hidden”. Others have reacted with disgust saying that many of these people are newly-religious and have no business telling anyone that their wives and daughters are not dressed modestly enough.
Many of the fathers belonging to the movement, now called “Taliban Judaism”, think the extreme modesty and the education have the markings of a cult. However, they are resigned to letting the children do as they wish. According to one parent, “My daughter is happy with the life they’ve chosen, so I have to accept it, even if the dominant figure is exploiting weaknesses.” However, his daughter sees no problem with her dress. According to her, the secular population is strange for being used to seeing women and girls wearing minimal clothing. She thinks that her actions are protecting men from having impure thoughts and sinning. But she also says that many fathers are not aware of what happens in the home and thus do not know what their wives and children are doing in regards to their appearance.
However, the discussion has gone beyond the Charedi sector. Complaints from residents of Beit Shemesh, who constantly see the girls, asked the Welfare Ministry to step in and investigate. According to director of the National Council for the Child, Yitzhak Kadman, “The last ‘Taliban Mother’ incident proved this behavior is harmful to children.”
At first, the “Jewish Taliban” had wide approval as it was seen as fighting immodest and gradually rose in numbers from three to 500 women. However, it soon upset the entire Haredi sector because it was seen as departing too far from traditional Jewish dress and conduct with the Haredi leadership now banning their behavior and dress.