The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is currently holding an exhibition dedicated to the special shrouds that are traditionally used by Jews to bury their dead.
Like other ancient cultures, Jews also bury their dead in specific items of clothing and the religion is clear about how a death should be handled.
When someone dies, religious law requires that representatives of the living accompany the body until burial. And in a ritual known as tahara, the remains are carefully washed and placed in a white shroud.
“Dressed for Eternity- Jewish Shrouds through the Ages" displays shrouds and tunics that are part of the museum’s extensive collection of clothing worn by Jews all around the world.
Efrat Assaf-Shapira, curator of exhibition, said these multipurpose “burial shrouds were also worn during life, for special life events", including as dresses after giving birth, on high holidays, and as wedding garments.
“The issue of fashion is very interesting because shrouds are ceremonial objects, and ceremonial objects always keep ancient or older dress traditions, which no longer exist,” said Assaf-Shapira.
“So when we look at the shrouds, we can see dress, ways or fashions of dress in different countries. We can see how people used to wear capes with hoods in Morocco, but also in Europe because it stayed in the shrouds.”
The items of clothing and textiles on display represent different ages, communities, and regions and come from all over the world including Morocco, Yemen, Turkey, Europe, the United States, and Israel.
Visitor, Ilana Licht, said she found the exhibition fascinating.
“I’ve learned that people prepare for death, when they get married or when they give birth, that it is in their mind and they prepare for it. I like it.”
Jews believe in an afterlife and, according to their traditions, the shroud worn for their burial will be their clothes when they are resurrected.
The exhibition “Dressed for Eternity- Jewish Shrouds through the Ages” runs until 14 October 2023.
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