The television will be closed in the closet, internet connections will be offered only to married couples, and there will be an option to separate the beds. These are some of the services some 20 hotels in Israel have taken upon themselves in order to accommodate ultra-Orthodox guests.
A little more than a month after senior haredi rabbis ordained the "Committee for the Character of the Jewish People" to establish a list of vacation spots appropriate for the haredi public, it seems as if their efforts are bearing fruit.
Five of the hotels that have taken upon themselves to uphold the stringent modesty standards of the haredi public are under religious ownership. These hotels have agreed to impose the standards all days of the year. The other 15 hotels have committed to institute the set modesty code during certain short time periods during which ultra-Orthodox guests increase.
The code operates such that even if a haredi guests wishes to act against the modesty code – and watch television, for instance – the guest will not be able to do so.
In addition to the list signed, the 20 hotels have committed to act according to the instructions of current rabbinical religious authorities. If they fail to do so, the committee will remove the hotel from the list and will make it known to the haredi public that the hotel is no longer among those authorized by the committee. It was agreed that in such a case, the offending hotel will have no legal recourse against the committee.
Following is the list of modesty regulations the hotels have committed to keep:
"The television equipment will be disconnected, at the very least by removing the cable and closing it away in storage, as well as disconnecting the central control in reception, such that no one can turn it on. The television itself will be covered or closed in a closet. A guest who does not observe the Torah and mitzvot, or someone who claims he has a television at home and his looks prove this, will be directed to a rabbi who will authorize that he be connected to the television."
"The wireless internet will be locked in the whole of the hotel compound. The computers in the lobby and other places accessible to hotel guests will not have internet access. Internet cards sold by the hotel will be available only to (married) adults."
"It will not be possible to observe bathing from any location. Male bathing will be overseen by a male lifeguard, and female bathing will be overseen by a female lifeguard."
"There will be a separate bar men and a separate bar for women in the dining room and anywhere else. In the hand washing area, a separation between men and women is also needed."
"Women to be dressed modestly"
"The beds will be separable in the rooms, or, otherwise, an extra bed may be added."
The "Committee for the Character of the Jewish People" is taking action on the modesty front while the rabbis responsible for granting kosher certificates to hotel kitchens are waging a war against them. The kosher-granting rabbis claim that the modesty demands being made are exaggerated and will only lead to unnecessary revocation of kosher certifications since rabbis would not dare grant certificates to establishments that are not on the committee's modesty list. The implied linkage between modesty and kashrut, they claim, will bring unnecessary economic damage to hotel owners.
The opposing rabbis also claim that the committee is acting out of its own self-interest that is not always connected with modesty.
In a rare step within the framework of internal haredi power struggles, an anonymous letter was sent some two weeks ago to the senior haredi rabbis, kosher supervisors in the hotels, and members of the committee accusing a senior rabbi of a long list of offences – both halakhic and criminal – of a sexual nature.
According to the anonymous writers, they are "young Torah scholars for whom the character of the Jewish people is truly important," and that the motivating factor of the accused man is "money and women" only.
The letter writers detailed the acts allegedly committed by the man called the rabbis to get rid of him and warned, "Heaven forbid this material reaches the secular press, then there would be defamation of God and the reputation of the committee rabbis will be damaged."