Great news for Charedi women. Ladies, from now on, you can do your shopping in mini-skirts, tank tops, bikinis - whatever. There is no issue of modesty. Your men can't see you anyway!
Because as of last week, the latest meshugaas to emerge out of the Charedi world is the burka-wearing men. Actually, they're not exactly burkas: they are even more extreme. Not only do these pieces of cloth leave no slit for the eyes, that's their whole point: to stop the men from seeing.
Yes, yes. You read that correctly. The Jews are famously innovative and now we have become the first in the world to cover up our menfolk's faces and eyes rather than our women's. On the journey to Uman before Rosh Hashanah this year, some of the pilgrims covered their faces with black cloths to stop their eyes being defiled with any "threatening" sights:
"Support for flights without movies" is the name of a small group that several years ago encouraged Haredi travelers not to take regular flights unless they had cardboard that could cover the movie screens on the airplane seats in front of them.
This year the idea caught on that immodest sights may also be a threat outside the airplane - in the airport terminal, for example. So pilgrims are being encouraged to bring scarves along.
"In any cloth shop, ask for a thin lycra cloth 70 cm wide (blue, brown or black ) costing about 20 NIS," reads one instruction. "It needs to be about 1.5 meters long ... which is necessary so it will sit well and not flow in the wind."
The leaflet notes that even if people laugh at someone wearing the scarf on his face, those covering their eyes "will be rewarded a thousand fold."
In a telephone interview from Uman, one pilgrim named Avinoam added: "It may sound ridiculous to you, but it has been more successful than expected. I recommend that you try it."
And if you don't believe it, the pictorial evidence is here.
Now, personally I am sorry for these men who are apparently so weak-willed that they are incapable of even walking through an airport terminal without succumbing to terrible temptations. But given the choice between the men covering up and the women covering up? These men have finally come to realise that if they do not wish to see certain parts of women's bodies that in normal society are uncovered, the onus is on them to stop looking rather than on the women to hide themselves. Now, that's the kind of burka I can get behind......
UPDATE: Some more pictures here.