The pictures of the family from Beit Shemesh wearing veils has disturbed me for several weeks. We can debate about whether this is in the spirit of the Torah. Or whether it threatens Orthodox Judaism, Israel, or women everywhere. But the most pressing issue involves the young girls in these families.
In the pictures, the faces of the girls are covered with a dark cloth. Perhaps the youngest child is four, perhaps older. In the best-case scenario, as described by the poster in the forum, the fabric used for the veils has small holes, invisible from afar, that allow the wearers to see out. Bus advertisements glued to windows also contain small holes that enable riders to see outside. But in both cases, the view is tinted.
It’s like having to wear sunglasses in all weather and light conditions, including indoors, or having cataracts, or going without correction for nearsightedness. I get a headache if I don’t take off my sunglasses the second I go into my building’s lobby. How much detail are these girls missing from their already limited view of the world?
Poor vision, though, is the lesser issue. The main concern is that the expressions on the faces of these girls are hidden from view. No one knows whether they are sad, happy, scared or worried. And to me that means no one really cares. Not their parents, not their teachers, and certainly not the rabbi supposedly supporting this —œtrend.—
Reportedly, there is an entire school of these girls. Can you imagine the scene on the playground, if they even have one? There is simply no way for girls in veils to have normal social interaction when they can’t see each other’s faces. It is like blinding them, but without providing compensation skills normally taught to disabled children.
A secular reader and friend, who works in the field of children’s health, sent me the following email:
Nobody is suggesting getting the social workers involved, that this could be considered a type of child abuse. I think that perhaps they are afraid of getting involved in a supposedly religious subject. That is why it is so important for religious women get involved.
People who see girls with veiled faces in their communities should report them to the local welfare department so a social worker can evaluate the family. If adults want to dehumanize themselves, that is their right. But covering children’s eyes is more than just a bizarre cultural more. It interferes with normal social and emotional development in a very serious way.
The shawls and veils also cover the mouth and ears. Who is listening to these children? Who can comfort them?