Greg and I recently returned from a brilliant holiday in Israel. We visited close friends Shirley and Iftah, who were born and bred in the suburbs of Tel Aviv. I’ve visited Israel before, but I saw the country with fresh eyes this time round. Having savvy and spirited local tour guides, who happen to be fabulous friends, was extra special.
Israel is a small country which makes it easy to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time. So we took several short road trips through all types of terrain: from the walled city of Old Jerusalem, the ruins of Caesarea and the salty cliffs and desert of the Dead Sea, to the leafy hills of the Golan Heights, the pretty shores of the Sea of Galilee, and the bustling urban pulse of Tel Aviv. In short, Israel is a complete cultural mind blow.
Personal style is as diverse as the terrain, and the extent to which people observe religion comes through loud and clear in what they wear. Ultra orthodox Jewish women take modesty to an extreme, covering up from head to toe in conservative long skirts, long sleeved tops, closed flat shoes, hose and headgear. Less orthodox women are still quite covered up, but their clothes are more modern and colourful. Secular Israeli Jewish women, on the other hand, are super trendy and far less modest, with a style that reminds me of Southern Europe.
The most striking thing is that you’ll see ALL levels of modesty at once. Unless you’re in an ultra-orthodox area, it’s common to see someone completely covered up alongside someone sporting tons of cleavage in a form fitting mini dress. The widely varying degrees of traditional and modern attire throughout the country makes for a unique street style experience. It really hits home how modest dress means different things in different parts of the world.
This sort of contrast is evident in so many aspects of Israel. A thriving high tech sector surrounded by ancient artifacts, beautifully barren desert just hours away from lush Mediterranean coastline, the struggling, recently nomadic Bedouins living on the outskirts of a modern city, and normal day to day life in the shadow of the social, economic and political turmoil of the region. It was a fascinating experience and we look forward to exploring more of Israel and the Middle East.
Tomorrow: Street style in Tel Aviv, with pictures.
Impressions of Israel: We took more than a thousand pictures in 8 days. These ones capture just a few of the moments. An old man with his donkey in Jerusalem, a funky scooter in old Tel Aviv, the most delectable pastries you can imagine, a traditional Israeli breakfast in Metula, paparazzi at work outside a star studded event, and the remains of an ancient underground Jewish cemetery in the Bet She’Arim national park.