Jerusalem

Knesset staff denied entry over 'mini' skirts

Employees protest at dress code rules in Knesset building after colleagues blocked because dresses deemed too short.

Around 10 to 15 women were denied entry to the parliament building for dress code reasons, but some were later allowed in [AP]

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

Staff members say that security officers at the Knesset, or parliament, had in recent days started to strictly enforce rules on the length of skirts, without giving a reason.

At one point on Wednesday morning, about 50 staff members and some parliamentarians gathered at the Knesset entrance in support of those refused entry.

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

One older parliamentarian, Manuel Trajtenberg, stripped down to his undershirt in protest and at one point yelled, "You'll all have to wear burqas!" Israeli media reported.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Trajtenberg as saying he supports a respectable dress code, but called the restrictions "discrimination against women".

"We need to respect and not humiliate these amazing women who work with all their hearts," he said.

About 10 to 15 women were denied entry for dress code reasons on Wednesday, but some were later allowed in, staff 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 news agency as she stood in the security hall to enter parliament along with supporters.

Rozenblat 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 MP Merav Michaeli of the opposition Zionist Union was denied entry because of her skirt length.

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

'Iran is here, in the Knesset'

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.

"We don't know what's the reason for it but we won't accept it - because we just want to work," Michaeli's spokeswoman Naama Shahar said.

On Twitter Michaeli posted a picture showing a number of female "counsellors" left at the entrance of the parliament building after being denied entry. "Iran is here, in the Knesset," she wrote.

Knesset officials denounced the protest in a statement as an "organised provocation" and said security staff were just "doing their work to enforce a dress code that has been in place for years".

Israeli media reported that te 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 Karin Elharar, a member of the opposition Yesh Atid party.

One person tweeted a photo of US First Lady Michelle Obama and Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wearing dresses above the knee and said they would also not be allowed inside the Israeli parliament.

"This is not Iran," said parliament member Gilon, who was outside in support of his aide who had been denied entrance.

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

Broadcasting calls to prayer might get banned in Israel

Source: News agencies