An Israeli barber has created a yarmulke design that uses human or synthetic hair rather than traditional materials like suede or velvet to craft a skullcap that allows religious European Jews to keep a lower profile in the face of rising anti-Semitism. Many Jews have said they have felt increasingly unsafe wearing faith symbols out in public for fear of being harassed or even attacked by those harboring anti-Semitic views, especially in the wake of a deadly hostage situation at a kosher market in Paris earlier this month.
The yarmulke of hair was developed by Shalom Koresh, whose salon is located in the city of Rehovot in central Israel. It “was created so people could feel comfortable going to places where they are afraid to go, or places where they can't wear it, and feel secure,” Koresh told the Associated Press. Koresh called his yarmulke the “Magic Kippa,” the Hebrew word for yarmulke.
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For those worried that the human hair yarmulke breaks with Jewish law, religious leaders said the nontraditional skullcap design is OK. "When we are in danger, then it's possible" to hide the yarmulke, Israeli Rabbi Shlomo Aviner told the AP. When in doubt, he said, Jews should consult their rabbis.
Europe has seen a steep rise in violence against Jews in recent years that experts have said is directly linked to the conflict in the Middle East. A recent spate of anti-Semitic attacks came to a head earlier this month when an Islamist gunman stormed a Jewish supermarket in Paris, killing four people and critically wounding five others. The attack followed a shooting at the headquarters of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was reportedly targeted by Islamist extremists for its cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
In France, Jews make up just 1 percent of the country’s population, but account for half of all victims of racist attacks. Over the last 20 years, anti-Semitic attacks in France have increased sevenfold. One in five respondents to a survey by London-based European Jewish Association said they had been on the receiving end of anti-Semitic slurs or physical harassment. Three out of four of those surveyed said they thought the situation for European Jews was getting worse.
The human hair yarmulke comes in a variety of colors and shades and can be of synthetic or natural hair. "This skullcap is washable, you can brush it, you can dye it," Koresh said.
Kippas are traditionally worn at all waking hours by devout Jewish men out of reverence for God and are donned during prayer by Jews of all persuasions. But wearing yarmulkes (or other kinds of hats) has not historically been compulsory, scholars have said. “Covering the head has always been regarded more as a custom rather than a commandment,” according to handmade yarmulke retailer Jessy Judaica. “It is widely accepted that one may refrain from wearing a yarmulke at work if your employer requires it.”