Channel Two’s investigative program, 360, broadcast a report about what they called the —œTaliban women.— Yifat Erlich (of Megeirot fame—she’s graduated from Makor Rishon newspaper to TV) went undercover to infiltrate the group and interview their leader, Malka Benizri.
The report claims that Bruria Keren, who is not identified by name, was the original leader of the “Taliban women.” While it’s true that Keren had a following, her group met in Beit Shemesh. I’m sure there was overlap, and perhaps Keren was influenced by this group in Geulah. I don’t think there’s one” leader.” Also, Keren always covered her face and none of the women shown at the Geulah meetings do. Benizri half-heartedly praises face-covering and demonstrated to Erlich how she can wrap her shawl over her lower face. But note that she doesn’t do that when shown outside the wedding hall.
Erlich also visited the school Keter Malchut to pretend to enroll her daughter. She’s told that since she is not haredi, she won’t be allowed to be alone with the daughters of the haredi students. The school of 150 students was not registered with the education ministry, and it was supposedly shut down in light of this report.
Erlich taped Benizri describing how she and her husband got approval for her shal from Rabbi Ovadia Yosef despite the husband’s objection. But Rabbi Yosef’s office sent 360 a statement denying it, stating that neither Yosef’s deceased wife, nor his daughters or daughters-in-law, dress like that. And that kol hamosif, gorea, i.e. it’s bad to do more than necessary. Especially against the will of one’s husband, Yosef added.
Most of the report was about shalim, with Benizri claiming that 10,000 women in Israel now wear them. I’m sure that’s an exaggeration, but they are very common in certain neighborhoods.
Erlich went to Nahar HaYarden Street in Beit Shemesh, where the pictures of the veiled family were taken. She got some footage of a home where a makeshift school is housed. Supposedly there are similar tiny schools operating in Jerusalem and Elad. A man gave a phone interview describing how girls were severely beaten up because they refused to wear shalim. He alleged that the girls in this group are utterly miserable and severely sheltered. Erlich also succeeded in getting an interview with Bruria Keren in her jail cell. Because Keren is still observing a speech fast, she writes out her response.
If I were secular I don’t know that I would have considered this news. So a bunch of women meet once a week and talk about tzniut (modesty) and a few children are supposedly being abused. Children getting beaten up doesn’t make for news these days.
Erlich didn’t shed light on the strange practices of these veiled women. I’ve heard from a reliable source that they only breastfeed for two weeks. I’m not sure whether this is because it’s too intimate, like showering, or because nursing postpones that all-important return to fertility.
I’m definitely not interested in what the abusive, mentally ill Keren has to say for herself.
Thanks to a reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, for the picture of the shal-wearing lady in the shuk. He couldn’t tell if her face was covered or not.