How Short Is Too Short for Israel's Parliament? New Fashion Arbiter to Decide

A month after detention of parliamentary aide over 'immodest' attire, task force to meet to decide on appropriate hemline.

Israeli parliamentary aides protest the new dress code at Knesset, December 14, 2016.
Emil Salman

The Knesset has hired the services of an image and fashion consultant to help it develop a new dress code, a month after a parliamentary aide was denied entry to the Knesset because her dress was considered too short.

The consultant, Annie Friedman, will join a task force planning to convene for the first time today to examine the dress code issue in the Knesset plenum. The team includes Yardena Meller-Horowitz, the Knesset secretary general, a female representative from each Knesset party, female representatives of the consultants committee and the chairperson of the Knesset workers’ union.

Friedman, a fashion professional for 35 years, reportedly believes the hemline in the Knesset should be in line with other state parliaments. “This dress code is an international language that deserves respect,” said Friedman. “The skirt’s length should be until the knee or five to six centimeters above it, according to the dress code.”

Friedman previously worked with the welfare and economy ministries, as well as with various fashion companies and the Dan Hotels chain.

The Knesset declined to comment “until the end of the team’s work.” Regarding Friedman’s compensation, a Knesset spokesperson said she would receive “payment as is accepted in the Knesset.”

Parliamentary aides Shaked Hasson, left, and Moria Silfen, who were refused entry to the Knesset because their dresses were deemed too short.
Olivier Fitusi

Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein decided about a month ago to set up the task force during a meeting with other MKs, including Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union), Yael German (Yesh Atid), Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) and Karin Elharrar (Yesh Atid). The MKs stressed to Edelstein the need to maintain a dignified dress code in the Knesset.

Last month, some 40 parliamentary aides protested the detention of female aides at the entrance to the parliament for wearing skirts that were deemed too short.

Haaretz first reported the story of Shaked Hasson, the aide of MK Michaeli, who was held up at the Knesset entrance by guards who regarded her dress as “immodest.” Moria Silfen, parliamentary adviser and spokeswoman of MK Elie Elalouf (Kulanu) also attested that she was not allowed into the Knesset because her dress was deemed too short.

The Knesset’s director general, Albert Sakharovich, recently issued an official memo to “refresh dress code rules” in parliament for all MKs and Knesset employees. “Entering the Knesset in improper attire, such as T-shirts, tank tops, shorts, short skirts and dresses, flip-flops and the like is forbidden,” he wrote. The memo did not specify what dress length is too short, leaving the question to interpretation.

A Knesset spokesman told Haaretz that the dress code had not been made more stringent. “On the contrary,” he commented. “Knesset guards were instructed to pay attention to dress code violations, but always to show sensitivity, in order to maintain dignified attire in the parliament while avoiding as much as possible hurting the feelings of visitors and guests.”