TEL AVIV — While France’s burkini controversy continues to spark fiery debates all over the world, there’s one stretch of coast in the Middle East where people don’t seem to care what women choose to wear (or not to wear) while lounging on the beach, and that place is Israel.
On Israeli beaches, it’s quite common to see religious women covered up in modest swimsuits next to their counterparts in string bikinis. The difference is, however, that those who choose to cover up might well be religious Jewish women or can just as easily be religious Muslims.
According to Anat Yahav, a Jewish designer of modest swimsuits, wearing a bikini is just as arbitrary as wearing a burkini – though Yahav refuses to call them that.
“Who decided that women should go to the beach in a bra and panties?” Yahav told the Washington Post from SunWay’s offices in Hod Hasharon, a town just outside of Tel Aviv.
Yahav says that since burkini-gate last month, orders for her line of modest swimwear have been on the rise.
She says that women of any religion, shape, age or size order SunWay swimsuits, which are marketed at home and abroad through local distributors in Miami and Greece as well as online.
Yahav originally founded her company in the 1990s with a line of UV protective swimwear made especially for children and babies. The full bodysuits gained so much popularity that women began asking Yahav to design similar ones for adults.
Word eventually reached religious women who sought swimwear that provided full coverage without hugging the body and, 12 years ago, Yahav began catering to their needs, the report said.
Today, the warehouse receives women from all walks of life: from ultra-Orthodox Jewish women to Muslim women to women who either want to protect their skin from the harsh Middle Eastern sun or who aren’t interested in exposing too much skin.
The swimsuits come in a range of styles and colors. The ones catering to the Muslim community include a hood – in lieu of a hijab – and an overskirt or dress. There are also separate swim items on sale, ranging from swim dresses, which can be paired with swim leggings, skirts and individual tops.
“There is no one popular style. Everyone chooses what suits them,” Yahav said. “Even though they are covered up, the women still want to look good and fashionable.”
One shopper, Hadas Kan, 50, told the Washington Post that despite being secular at “my age, I don’t feel comfortable in a bikini.”
“It’s not that I don’t like my body, I just don’t need to show it to everyone,” she said.
Kan ended up purchasing the swimming leggings and T-shirt, but chose not to buy the skirt.
“I’m going on vacation next week and this is what I am going to wear,” she said.
Yahav believes that the burkini storm is simply “another attack on women.”
“If you look at history, if you look at the swimsuits of the past, women were much more covered up, so why is there a problem now?” Yahav said.