European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal EFHA World

Veiled Women of the Holy Land: New Trends in Modest Dress at Israel Museum


The new exhibition exploring contemporary meanings of modesty in dress

In April 2019, the Israel Museum opened the exhibition “Veiled Women of the Holy Land: New Trends in Modest Dress.” The exhibition is the result of the research and fieldwork carried out by No’am Bar’Am-Ben Yossef, curator of the exhibition, and explores the current similarities and differences between over-coverings among pious Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian women in Israel.

“The timely topic of women’s wraps and veils in Muslim society as a means of indicating religious piety, modesty, and morality, continues to intrigue Western society. Over the past ten years, it has also become highly controversial in Israel due to the phenomenon of over-covering by a number of fervently observant Jewish women. This exhibition sheds light on the similarities that exist today between the clothing of an unusually extreme group of Jewish, ultra-orthodox women who have chosen to over-cover themselves, and that of pious Muslim and Druze women in Israel, as well as Christian women who veil themselves. It seems that there may be an ongoing hidden “conversation” between all of them. The dominant conversation is between Muslim and Jewish women, but Christian women also have an influence in the exchange. The underlying source is different for each religious group, but stems from the same religious, nostalgic, biblical, and idealistic times: the wish to embody their ancient mothers. Whether it is the Jewish mothers – Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah – the Muslim women in the Prophet Mohammed’s entourage, or the Christian Mother Mary, allof these feminine icons opened the gates for women to embrace the veiling tradition today. In this way, a conscious or subconscious dialogue can be discerned between all of these groups, which is addressed in this intriguing exhibition.

Unveiling veiled women is an intensely paradoxical act. The difficulty in photographing or record such women led the curators to invite Ari Teperberg, an interdisciplinary artist whose background is in visual theater, to create, in full collaboration with the exhibition curator, an experimental ethnographic display, using an actress who play the role of the women in an installation involving three short video artworks. Their spoken texts are based on long-term fieldwork among the women from the three different religions. A display of fourteen outfits of clothing gives new insight into the similarities and differences between the various groups.”

No’am Bar’am Ben Yossef & Miki Joelson