At the insistence of the husbands of some burka-wearing women, a leading rabbinical authority is to issue an edict declaring burka wearing a sexual fetish that is as promiscuous as wearing too little.
A small group of ultra-orthodox Jews in the town of Beit Shemesh chose to don the burka, usually associated with women in repressive Islamist regimes, three years ago in a bid to protect their modesty.
Since then, the habit has spread to five otherIsraeli towns causing alarm among ultra-orthodox religious leaders who once saw it as a relatively harmless eccentricity – even though the number of Jewish burka wearers is not thought to be more than a few hundred.
“There is a real danger that by exaggerating, you are doing the opposite of what is intended [resulting in] severe transgressions in sexual matters,” Shlomo Pappenheim, a member of the rabbinical authority preparing to make the edict, was quoted as saying.
Ultra-Orthodox women are required to dress conservatively and keep their heads covered with a scarf, hat or wig when in public.
But even that was not enough for some, who insisted that only by covering their faces and wearing multiple layers of clothes to hide the shape of their bodies can they really be chaste.
"At first, I just wore a wig," one burka-wearing woman told the Haaretz newspaper. "Now when I see a woman with a wig, I pray to God to forgive her for wearing that thing on her head."
Since donning the burka, the woman said she had been taunted by neighbours who called her a "smelly Arab" and that Israeli soldiers had asked to see her identification papers to prove she was not a Muslim. They backed down, she said, when she showed them that her children were clearly Jewish.
The trend has also caused tensions in family life. One man went to a rabbinical court in an attempt to get a ruling to force his wife to stop wearing the burka.
The plan backfired, however. The court ruled that that woman's behaviour was so "extreme" that it ordered the couple to undergo an immediate religious divorce.