Do you have a little daughter? Do you wonder if she’s old enough to join you for the family cycling trip? Forget about it if you’re an Orthodox Jew living in Jerusalem. Provocative and immodest – that’s how some ultra-Orthodox rabbis of the Holy City describe 5-year-old girls riding bicycles. Ridiculous? Welcome to the world of strict rules.
The rabbis of the Nachlaot neighbourhood in Jerusalem announced the rule to their followers in the synagogues across the area. According to the Israeli website Arutz Sheva 7, the rabbis claim that girls aged five and older riding bicycles could cause a serious damage to their modesty and that seats make them sit in a way that some men would find inappropriate and provocative.
Does this sound like a bad joke? It isn’t in the opinion of the most respected patriarchs in some quarters of Jerusalem. The news was confirmed by many international magazines including the Independent and the Focus.
Obviously, the ban concerns only followers of the relatively small branch of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. The Haredi ultra-Orthodox community practises a form of Judaism that emerged during the 19th century in Eastern Europe: the secular world is disdained, Yiddish is used as their primary language, married women are required to dress according to a strict code and cover their hair, while men wear black hats and long coats known as kaftans. Most time is dedicated to God and prayers. In such a world, there’s no space for kids to enjoy cycling holidays.
Actually, it’s not the first absurd decree issued by Orthodox authorities. Most women are not allowed to drive. In December 2015, Orthodox Israeli rabbis demanded that women should be banned from applying to universities after declaring that studying secular subjects would be a danger to them. According to Yeshiva World News, there are also constant efforts to ban the Internet from the communities and to declare smartphones “not kosher” in Jewish law.