Fashion statements

January 4, 2011 - 10:00 AM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: design, General, Israeliness, Religion 

Just saw this and it made me “LOL.”

In the latest batch of American magazines to make it to my coffee table, courtesy of my lovely visiting cousins, the November issue of InStyle looked at the current favorites of Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci. Clearly a style setter, although “never one to bow to tradition,” writes InStyle. So what does Mr. Tisci choose, besides a perfect white shirt and cotton poplin skirt? His cotton gabardine pants with attached skirt, priced at $680 and available at Neiman Marcus.

He says, “A skirt? Yes. Trousers? Yes, also. I like the masculine and feminine elements.”

I’m thinking that Mr. Tisci must have made a trip to Jerusalem, perhaps even Petach Tikva, where the pants with short skirt on top is a fave among certain women of the religious skirt, who need the skirt but want their pants too. That said, it’s not just for the religious world, just like harem pants — known here as Aladdin pants — were first a fashion statement and then an easy skirt-pant solution for the religious set.

But it’s definitely amusing that what is sometimes seen as an awkward combo here is now a trend being set by a French haute couture house. Now if only he could find a name for the pant-skirt.

At Nitzana

January 3, 2011 - 10:15 AM by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Art, coexistence, education, Environment, General, Holidays, Israeliness, Life 

Sometimes you’re brought to remote but interesting places. My latest was Nitzana (נִצָּנָה, ניצנה‎‎), a youth village and communal settlement in the western Negev desert in Israel, right at the Egyptian border. It’s just about 2.5 hours from Jerusalem but feels much farther, probably because there’s not a lot happening in the near vicinity, unless you count an ancient Nabatean city and international border crossing.

We were there with a bunch of family and friends, continuing our week-long celebration of my nephew Akiva’s bar mitzvah. Why Nitzana? One of my sisters had been there recently and liked the location as well as the clean, simple and inexpensive hostel-like accommodations for our large group. Built as a youth village in 1987, it now has a population of around 50 families and serves as home for a variety of populations including disadvantaged Israeli, Arab and Bedouin youth learning science, technology and ecology education, as well as Asian students studying at an agricultural outpost of Hebrew University and a range of guests who come to stay in the new guest quarters. The place was founded by Aria Lova Eliav, a beloved Israeli who died just this year, after 89 years of life in Israel, where he moved at the age of four. Lova Eliav, as he was known, founded the city of Arad in the eastern Negev and was responsible for developing the towns of Lachish and Kiryat Gat. When he saw that the South lacked facilities for youth, and he had an idea to turn the sand dunes of Nitzana in the Western Negev into a youth village.

They weren’t the first ones to stake out the desert as a possibly creative and productive outpost. Nitzana appears to have been a station on the eastern branch of the ancient Spice Route, serving pilgrims and merchants travelling to Sinai or central Egypt. A tel to the south of the modern settlement is home to several ancient churches, a well and some living quarters. There’s also a manmade cave that appears to have been hewn out of the stone above to serve as temporary living quarters for travelers.

It’s all ironically similar to the current scenario down here, where the Nitzana Border Crossing used to once handle pedestrians and private cars between Egypt and Nitzana, but no longer. Now it only handles commercial trade and is just across the road from the Path of Peace, an environmental sculpture of columns created by Israeli artist Dani Karavan. Running over three kilometers, from the hills of Nitzana to the border, the 100 round columns are each inscribed with the word ‘peace’ in a different language, each one representing all those who have traveled through or lived in this region.

The amateur tour guide

December 30, 2010 - 10:24 AM by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Entertainment, Food, General, Immigrant Moments, Israeliness, Life, Travel 

We’re in a hosting week. Given that it’s Christmas-New Year’s week, it’s time for visitors to come, well, visit. For us, there’s the added incentive of my nephew’s bar mitzvah — Akiva, my special, special-needs nephew who did fabulously at his bar mitzvah on Monday morning — and the more than 30? 35? friends and relatives who decided to take advantage of a vacation week and come celebrate with us over here.

And so, I’ve got four cousins staying with me, plus some more family up the block in a rented apartment, and a variety of others staying in a range of hotels, from the simple to the more luxe. When that happens, you become tour guide for the week. Or ten days. Or two weeks.

It’s a funny thing. I mean, what do I know about being a tour guide? I didn’t take the tour guide course, of course, but when you’ve lived somewhere for 15 years, and it’s a place that people like to visit, you end up gathering information and knowledge about this kind of stuff. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I just finished a project updating the Jerusalem section of the Fodor’s guidebook, and am now a local expert — among family and friends — about where to eat, stay and shop in Jerusalem.

We’ve tramped around Machane Yehuda, wandered through the newly renovated Israel Museum, walked around the ‘Mitcham HaRakevet’ in Tel Aviv and gone shopping in Gan Hachashmal. I’ve sent them to eat and see a flick at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, feed the goats in Moshav Tel Shachar and munch on grilled chicken in the shuk.

It’s fun to rediscover your fave places through the eyes of others. And, hey, to vacation in your own town.

The Israeli at H&M

December 28, 2010 - 9:23 PM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business, design, General, Israeliness, Pop Culture 

This is slightly old news, but not completely. Back in November, the much-anticipated, limited edition collection of Israeli desigher Alber Elbaz went on sale in 200 H&M stores worldwide, including H&M Israel.

Customers went crazy, and were given limited shopping times so that there’d be plenty of shopping time and product for all customers. They slept on the streets the night before the collection opened, and ran around like mad to snatch up the yellow ruffled dress and brightly colored bags created by Elbaz, who was born in Morocco but moved to Israel as a small child.

That is, all customers except for the Jerusalem H&M customers, who were excluded from this special event. Seems that the Tel Aviv H&M got the Lanvin collection, but not the Jerusalem store. When I asked the H&M people why the Jerusalem H&M wasn’t getting the collection, they said that they had “understood” that Jerusalemites wouldn’t be interested in Elbaz’s creations. Clearly, intense discrimination against the Jerusalem fashionistas, and what’s that all about?

Hazal Yellow Pages

December 22, 2010 - 10:07 AM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: education, General, History and Culture, Israeliness, Life, News, Politics, Religion 

The email life brings interesting tidbits to one’s mailbox. This one came the other day, from the Masorti (Conservative) movement in Israel.

Depicting a page from the Yellow Pages, it says Workers at the top of the page and the acronym Hazal, which stands for Hachameinu Zichronom l’vracha, or Our Sages May Their Memory Be Blessed, and refers to all sages from the Mishnaic, Talmudic eras and other rabbinic commentators. The listings, are of many great Jewish sages, and their ‘day jobs’, which they all held. Under Tailors, there’s Abba Ben Zimna and Rabbi Yehuda; Rashi, Rabbi Hanina, Shamai and Rambam have their own ‘ads,’ as vineyard owner, shoemaker, builder and doctor, respectively. There’s Resh Lakish, the orchard guard, Rav Ada, the land surveyor, Rabbi Yossi, the maker of fish nets, and many others.

The concept behind this clever ad? Well, as the tagline reads: “Hazal Yellow Pages. If only today’s rabbis walked in the footsteps of the truly great ones.”

The ad is in response to the current yeshiva student stipend issue, the latest battle between Israel’s secular population and the powerful ultra Orthodox community, whose politicians Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is struggling to keep in his coalition. The ultra Orthodox community is small but growing rapidly, and shuns secular studies and service in the army and often does work, with the men continuing to study into their adulthood despite large families.

As a result, many Israelis greatly resent the Haredi or ultra Orthodox community, but Netanyahu has been looking for a way to pay a stipend to yeshiva students after the High Court barred a budget line that gave money to them. He needs the ultra Orthodox parties in his coalition in order to work his way through the Palestinian peace process, and this is one way to win their approval.

As for the rest of the Israeli population, it’s hard not to resent a community that lives off the state, without serving in the army or working for their own bread and butter. After all, our ancient sages were learned men who also worked for a living.

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