Israel has finally found an issue that unites the religious right and feminists, according to an AFP report: cheerleaders. Apparently, they’re required by law for each team in Israel’s national basketball league, but goodness knows the traditional role of cheerleaders—to undercut the homoeroticism of male team sports with titillating gyrations—just doesn’t fly in Jerusalem. Protests by ultra-Orthodox fans of Hapoel Jerusalem, the local team, have led to a change in league policy from fining teams that don’t have cheerleaders to offering cash to those that do. The league’s spokesman offered this pragmatic wisdom: “In life there are always things you don’t like. I don’t like it when the fans chant: ‘War, war, war,’ but what can you do?”
While feminists who find cheerleading chauvinistic have allied themselves with the ultra-Orthodox community, which objects to immodestly dressed women performing in public, they may unwittingly be taking a stand against a field that allows female athletes to shine. “They do lots of acrobatics and create energy, not through feminine movements, but more through strength,” said the cheerleading coach of Hapoel Jerusalem. While she made this remark in an attempt to distinguish her squad of relatively fully clad women from others, we find this distinction between femininity and strength troubling. We’re also bummed out by the conclusion to AFP’s report: “And so it seems Jerusalem’s cheerleaders, unloved, unwanted and definitely not sexy, are here to stay.” These women are not exactly nuns. Watch the video and judge their appeal for yourself.