Skirts too short? Israeli parliament staffers protest dress code rules

Staffers say security at the Knesset in recent days began strictly enforcing rules on the length of skirts, with no reason given for why

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Skirt-wearing Israeli parliament staffers protested dress code rules at the building's entrance Wednesday after several of their colleagues were denied entry because their dresses were deemed too short.

Staffers say security at the Knesset, or parliament, in recent days began strictly enforcing rules on the length of skirts, with no reason given for why.

At one point on Wednesday morning, around 50 staffers and some parliament members gathered at the entrance to parliament in support of those refused entry, participants said.

Many of them wore skirts above the knee with stockings underneath on a cold and rainy day in Jerusalem.

One older member of parliament, Manuel Trajtenberg, stripped down to his undershirt in protest at one point and yelled “you'll all have to wear burkas!” Israeli media reported.

Around 10 to 15 women were denied entry for dress code reasons on Wednesday, but some were later allowed in, staffers said.

“I've worn this same dress many times,” said Kesem Rozenblat, 30, an adviser to parliament member Ilan Gilon of the left-wing Meretz party who was refused entry.

“Maybe they're scared of women's legs, I don't know,” she told AFP as she stood in the security hall to enter parliament along with supporters.

She said security officers did not measure her skirt, but a woman guard “simply looked me up and down and said it wasn't appropriate.”

The issue emerged on Sunday when an aide to parliament member Merav Michaeli of the opposition Zionist Union was denied entry due to her skirt length.

Photos showed the aide, Shaked Hasson, wearing a blue dress that stopped above her knees, with stockings underneath.

Speaking to Israeli radio, Michaeli called the sudden strict enforcement an “attempt to impose fundamentalist standards,” referring to dress rules followed by ultra-Orthodox Jewish women requiring them to cover their arms and legs as well as their heads with a scarf.

Michaeli's spokeswoman Naama Shahar told AFP: “We don't know what's the reason for it but we won't accept it -- because we just want to work.”

Knesset officials denounced the protest in a statement, calling it an “organized provocation.”

The statement said security workers would “do their work to enforce a dress code in place for years.”

Security officers at the Knesset declined to comment.

Israeli media reported that the code prohibits t-shirts, shorts, sandals and short dresses or skirts.

However, women protesting outside on Wednesday said they were not told how short is too short.

“They just said we cannot go in like this today,” said Shira Amiel, a 27-year-old aide to parliament member Karin Elharar of the opposition Yesh Atid party.

Parliament member Gilon, who was outside in support of his aide who had been denied entrance, told AFP “it is not Iran.”

“It's crazy. I have a lot of very important things to do, but I spend my time with idiocy and stupidity,” he said.

Israeli society sees frequent tensions between ultra-Orthodox Jews demanding strict observance of Jewish law and secular citizens.

The ultra-Orthodox account for around 10 percent of the country's population.

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