Sparking Controversy, ultra-Orthodox Singer Performs Blindfolded to Avoid Seeing Women Dance

Religious crooner Yonatan Razel sings one song with his eyes covered in tape, prompting criticism for his 'religious extremism'

Itay Stern
Itay Stern
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Itay Stern
Itay Stern

Ultra-Orthodox Israeli singer Yonatan Razel stirred up a firestorm on Sunday when he opted to perform at his own concert with black tape covering his eyes so as not to see the women at the foot of the stage who were dancing to his music.

Razel sang one song with his eyes covered in tape.

The 44-year-old singer often performs for mixed-gender audiences, and this is also not the first time that he covers eyes in an effort to avoid seeing women dance to his music.

Last year at a performance in Shiloh, he covered his face with his jacket when women began dancing.

The organizers of the Tzama Hasidic music festival, which Razel’s concert was part of, said in reaction to the singer's move that “Razel has performed regularly before women for years, and respects them. And no other significance should be attributed to his actions on [Sunday].”

Na’amat, an Israeli women’s organization, protested the Haredi singer's blindfolded appearance in a fiery Facebook post. “How far will this supposed religious extremism go?” The group asked. "Who are the rabbis that encourage such bizarre behavior?" they charged further.

Many other comments made their way to Twitter. Journalist Yoaz Hendel tweeted that he really likes Razel, with his eyes covered or not. “In general I prefer for people to cover their eyes (a strange custom) than to ask others to cover up for them.”

Journalist Linoy Bar Gefen tweeted that in theory she should be insulted by the masking tape he stuck on his eyes, but it was very funny once she thought about what it did to his eyebrows and eyelashes when he had to take it off.

Razel is a very popular singer in religious society, and among the nonreligious public too. His songs are played regularly on many Israeli radio stations, such as Reshet Gimel and Army Radio.

His close friend, singer Eviatar Banai, produced his first album, “All in All” (“Sach Hakol”), which was released in 2007. He has put out two more albums since, in 2012 and this year. He has twice won a Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers in Israel (ACUM) award, his “Katonti” was Song of the Year in 2013 and in 2011 he won the award for composition and musical arrangement.

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