A child-abuse scandal has brought an extremist, fervently Orthodox women’s sect to light in Israel.
Police announced this week the arrest of a woman in her 50s from Beit Shemesh on charges of assaulting and neglecting her 12 children, some of whom are believed to have committed incest.
It soon emerged that the suspect is a leader of a religious community with bases in Beit Shemesh and other Israeli towns that believes Jewish women should be entirely covered from view and refrain from speaking to men.
Video footage of the suspect’s remand hearing showed her hooded and swaddled in many layers of dark clothing, no skin visible, and apparently in need of physical guidance to see which way to walk.
Established Orthodox communities, including the fervently Orthodox Chasidim and haredim, have dubbed the sect “the Taliban” and described it a Jewish aberration. Some believe its members were secular women who in embracing religion took it to an unusual extreme.
The suspect has denied the charges against her, but her self-imposed strictures on communication have slowed the legal proceedings.