Saturday, January 15, 2005

Long Skirts Revisited

On Thursday, I asked why, if religious Israelis are so often surprised that a journalist could be "frum," are the secular Israelis not similarly surprised when I show up to interview them in my long skirts?

Commenter Ploni, with Miriam (of Bloghead) seconding, answered that non-religious Israelis have no reason to be surprised, since "They don't have this preconception of what's 'proper' for a frum girl to be doing." I agree with that up to a point. For journalists, yes, I can see the average Tel Avivian saying "yeah, so what? Why shouldn't an Orthodox woman be a journalist, any less than a speech therapist or a graphic designer?" But I'm sure they would be surprised, preconceptions or no, if, say, a stripper at their local "dance" club claimed to observe Shabbat and be very careful to have all her clothes checked for shatnez, you know what I mean? Still, I agree with their interpretation in principle.

Anyway, today I read something in Haaretz that gave strength to the answer given by Yael, who told me on the phone: "They aren't surprised because to them, your clothes don't scream 'frum,' they scream 'American.'"

I said "yeah, but not all Americans dress the way I do. Only Orthodox ones."

She said "true, but they don't necessarily know that. Maybe, such a high percentage of the Americans they encounter are religious, that they think all Americans dress like that."

In yesterday's Haaretz was an article (which unfortunately I cannot find right now) about an obviously religious woman who runs an archive devoted to all things related to Amos Oz. In her picture, she is wearing a past-the-knees dress, buttoned down the front, and a white cap that, to my eyes, may as well have said "kiss me, I'm religious."

But in the article, they said that the native Israeli "wears the sort of cap sported by foreign visitors."


There's a saying by Russian immigrants that "in Russia they hated me because I'm Jewish, and in Israel they hate me because I'm Russian." An unfortunate reality.

Not to imply that it's on the same level, but that line in Haaretz made me think "In America, my skirts indicated my Jewishness. In Israel, they indicate my Americanness." It made me laugh.

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