The Red Sea, near Eilat (illustrative)
The Red Sea, near Eilat (illustrative)Israel news photo: Hana Levi Julian

A new swimwear company has begun to cater to the growing segment of the hareidi-religious and "chardal" (hareidi religious Zionist) female market seeking more modest beach and pool attire. Sea Secret, which announces to its customers that it specializes in “new modest swimwear” has produced a line of women's and girls' bathing suits that look like just like a dress anyone would wear on the street.

The company's website, designed specifically with the religious woman in mind, offers up a menu of options that begins with the primary issue, “Why use modest swimwear?” The answer, says the company, has to do with “allowing women to cover up for reasons of modesty, along with keeping a fashionable sense of 'elegant haute couture.' We hope to give all women the opportunity to adopt these gorgeous dresses, so they can be modest in the prettiest way. We are praying that holiness will continue to grow among our women and nation of Israel,” explains the company in a statement posted on the site.

Sea Secret is apparently a project, as much as it is a commercial venture, and is supervised by Rabbi Yaacov Yosef, son of Israel's former Sephardic Chief Rabbi and the Sephardic Shas party's Spiritual Leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. A helpful list of separate beaches in Israel is also available on the company's website, as is a list of international mikvahs (ritual pools) which are needed for observance of commandments involving ritual and family purity.

Torah standards

But it is the Testimonials page that really explains why someone would spend approximately  a hundred dollars or more in such a tight economy to buy a bathing suit (although this is the range of prices in Israel for well known bathing suit designers, such as Gottex). “I can now swim very easily and I get dry fast.  Good bye to the sunburns and suntan lotions... Finally!!!” (sic) enthused Mazal, age 60, from Netanya. Chagit explained that she had just gotten married and was worried about “how limited I would feel at the beach... but thank G-d I found this dress. I was at the Bahamas (sic) with my husband and felt really free to swim and tan as I pleased!”

All of Sea Secret's swim wear meet the standards set forth in the Torah for women's modesty, covering the body relatively loosely from above the collarbone to below the elbow, and with a skirt length that reaches below the knee.

There are also religious women who are reluctant to wear standard bathing suits, even in separate swimming areas, out of concern that men might inadvertently enter the area or because it is what they are used to.

The women's collection, offered in black, turquoise and a deep purple hue, features six different styles,  Each comes with a matching head covering and knee-length capris, and clips are attached on the bottoms of the skirts in order to keep them closed. There is also a children's bathing suit (offered in dolphin grey) with a matching bathing cap.