Israeli Parliamentary Aides to Protest Enforcement of New Knesset Dress Code

Female aides to come to work wearing skirts and dresses in protest over staff at the legislature being denied entry or delayed because of 'too short' attire.

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

The union representing parliamentary aides in the Knesset is protesting the mistreatment of aides and visitors to the Knesset, following the implementation of a new dress code.

A number of female aides and other staff at the Knesset have been denied entry or otherwise delayed when they arrived for work recently because guards said their attire did not meet the new standards.

“In recent days a number of incidents have occurred in the Knesset in which the entry of women employees was blocked because of ‘too short’ attire,” said the union. “The change in enforcement is an order of the new Knesset director general and the management of the Knesset to more strictly enforce the dress code. As a symbol of protest, the female aides will come to work wearing dresses and skirts.”

The union said this step was not a provocation, but a clarification that respectable attire does not necessarily mean modest clothing in fundamentalist terms. Female and male employees of the Knesset respect it very much and dress accordingly, said the union.

Knesset director general Albert Saharovich held an urgent meeting on Tuesday with the union representing the parliamentary aides after the announcement of their protest scheduled for Wednesday.

The meeting ended without any agreement, and it seems the protest will be held as planned. Saharovich remained firm in his opinion of the need for the new dress code to “preserve the honor of the Knesset.”

But Saharovich said there is still room for greater sensitivity and apologized to the parliamentary aides for the specific incident reported in Haaretz about Shaked Hasson, a parliamentary aide to MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union), who was denied entrance to the Knesset for an hour and examined by five male Knesset guards because she wore a “too short dress.”

MK endorses protest

“I completely support the protest of the parliamentary aides because it is a battle that concerns all of us, the struggle not to be measured according to the length of the skirt,” said Michaeli. “I am in favor of respectable appearance but we must differentiate between respectable appearance and modest appearance. ‘Dress code’ cannot be an outmoded method for objectifying women,” Michaeli told Haaretz.

On Sunday, Hasson was denied entry to the Knesset when guards said her dress was immodestly short, and only allowed to go to work after her boss protested directly to Saharovich. He then sent a female guard, who approved Hasson’s dress and let her enter.

Last week a Knesset staffer was barred from entering because her dress was deemed too short to meet the dress code. MK Eli Alalouf’s parliamentary adviser and spokeswoman, Moria Silfen, was forced to go home and change into longer attire by the Knesset’s security guards.

Other women have come forward saying that they too have been denied access to the parliament building over their dress, in the wake of the headlines this week.

The Knesset spokesman said in response that following the media coverage of the issue, Saharovich convened a meeting Monday with professional staff and ordered that the Knesset dress code be enforced with sensitivity and common sense, and with what the spokesman called “an effort as much as possible to avoid hurt feelings.” In addition, he made it clear that, when necessary, female guards should address the matter with women seeking to enter the building.

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