The group of ultra-Orthodox women who entered the parliament building in Belfast, Northern Ireland, last December, immediately drew the attention of everyone in the reception compound. Waiting for the guests from Israel was an elegant table covered with all sorts of glatt kosher offerings, supervised by the rabbi of the city and served with disposable utensils.
Among the women was Esther Atias, wife of former Minister Ariel Atias, who is one of the heads of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party; Adina Bar Shalom, daughter of the late spiritual leader of Shas Rabbi Ovadia Yosef; and Tzipi Lau, wife of Israel's Chief Rabbi David Lau. The group featured more women — wives of other senior Shas leaders — all of whom preferred to keep a low profile in their visit to Northern Ireland. They were joined at the dinner by local parliamentarians. During their visit, the women also met with the mayor of Belfast, former members of the Irish underground and victims of the bloody “Troubles” that tore the country apart.