Located near the city of Ramle, Moshav Azarya is surrounded by carefully tended vineyards and scenic national parks. Its original founders were religious Kurdish immigrants, who reportedly named the village “Azaria” as an acronym for “Oley Zakho ra’u yeshuat Hashem,” or “Immigrants from Kurdish village Zakho saw G-d’s salvation.” Belev Echad has been helping restore the moshav’s warm religious spirit for the last three years.
Tzniyut Taught Right
Ita Shapira, Belev Echad madricha at Moshav Azaria, had a gargantuan task ahead of her. How could she convey the subtle beauty of the mitzvah of tzniyut, modesty, to secular teenage girls?
She worked hard to prepare sensitive, compelling classes on the topic. And the girls seemed to respond well.
But then the time came to make things practical.
“I have an exciting announcement,” she told her girls one summer day. “I’m organizing a trip to a public swimming pool next week.”
The girls started buzzing happily. “Sounds fun!” “Oooh, swimming!” “Which pool?”
Ita smiled. “It isn’t one you’ve heard of. It’s a religiously-run pool in Beit Shemesh.”
The positive buzz died down abruptly. “A religious pool?” “Oh, you mean one of those with separate hours? Girls-only, boys-only?”
Ita nodded. “Mm hm. What’s the problem?”
The girls looked around at each other. “Well,” one brave one said, “it just doesn’t sound like much fun without boys there.”
“That’s the whole point of going to a public pool, isn’t it? Getting attention from the boys. I mean, what are we going to do the whole time if it’s just girls?”
Ita swallowed a smile. She couldn’t wait to let them see for themselves how much fun they would have despite the modesty rules – perhaps even because of them.
“You might as well try it out,” she told them. “Worst comes to worst, you’ll get some exercise.”
At the pool, the girls looked a bit uncertain. But the rippling blue water sparkling under the blazing sun convinced them to make their way in.
After a few minutes, they were all undeniably having fun. They swam, splashed, laughed, raced each other, played pool games they’d enjoyed when they were younger. Without the all-consuming pressure of having boys around, they were actually able to focus on – swimming! Sunbathing! Enjoying their friends!
When it was time to go, it took a while for Ita to fish her glowing, happy girls out of the pool.
“So? How was it?” she asked the girls on the bus ride home.
“I had a blast!” “So much fun.” “Can we do it again?!”
Ita’s ultimate validation came at the next class, when she overheard one girl talking to a friend who’d missed the pool trip because of a doctor’s appointment.
“Adi, you have no clue what it was like. Legit no boys, not even one. They didn’t let the boys in till every single one of us was done. And you know what? We had a ton of fun! I don’t know, I guess we were all just – relaxed. We got to, like, let go and just enjoy.”
Tzniyut isn’t always an easy topic to embrace. But Ita knew the girls’ experience had taught them more than any class could about the joy of living modestly.