EFEJerusalem

Apparent in Jerusalem is a style of dress for women more commonly associated with predominantly Muslim nations, as an epa photographer found out when he hit the streets of the holy city.

The shawl-wearing women of a Jewish religious group known as the Haredi burqa sect have adopted a burqa-like covering for their entire bodies, which is seen as controversial in ultra-Orthodox Haredi circles.

In photographs depicting the daily lives of these Haredis as they go about their business, one scene shows a woman who is covered from head to toe in a veiled garment made from black material, as she passes a street-side vegetable market while a child clutches to her side.

The number of women who have adopted this style of dress is estimated to be between 150-300, with members of the group concentrated mainly in the cities of Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh, just west of Jerusalem, and Safed in northern Israel.

The Haredis claim that women who dress in this way will receive salvation, and say that the holy mothers of the Jewish people had historically covered themselves some 3,500 years ago.

Women belonging to this ultra-Orthodox group follow the teachings of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, who was known as Rambam and was one of the great arbiters of Jewish laws throughout the ages.

In the 12th century, he said Jewish woman should cover up their modesty and their whole bodies when out on the street.

Most modern rabbis reject the complete coverage of the body as they believe it is too extreme and that it was not Rambam's intention.