As Israelis hustle to retrieve their civilian gas masks against the backdrop of rising tensions in the region over talks of a US-led military intervention in Syria, some — namely Orthodox Jewish men and others with long facial hair — are demanding that the Israeli government provide them with masks that will fit over their beards.
Bearded individuals have been making their way to distribution centers around the country to find that these masks that cover the entire head, are in limited supply and are reserved for those with breathing problems and the elderly.
Some faced with the choice of shaving or going without protection to a gas attack, are choosing the latter, according to Ynet News.
The concern is that conventional masks will not fit over the facial hair and there won’t be enough time for the men to shave in the event of an attack.
Many Orthodox Jews have a custom to wear long beards, which they say is a religious imperative.
According to a report in the Washington Post, the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party has demanded that the government order a supply of the beard-friendly masks, called Bardas, that was reportedly widely available in Israel during the 1991 Gulf War.
The Home Front Command website provides information on the type of gas mask kits available, with the required type available in two versions, the Caesar and the Super-Caesar
In other mask-related news — non-bearded this time — Israeli gas masks are on sale on eBay for an average price of about $30, quite a find for non-citizen residents who are not provided with the protective device by the government but who can purchase it privately.
Most of the masks, though coming from Israel, are being sold in the United States, likely by expats and others who illegally took a souvenir with them when leaving the Jewish State.
Masks are provided free for all Israeli citizens. On Wednesday, distribution centers reported massive lines and shortages as Israelis rushed to stock up ahead of a possible US strike on Syria.