|Not your regular Saturday night.|
Shimi and Rami reach down and, in one fell swoop, secure their kippa’s in perfect unison. Sporting fitted dress shirts and tight, dark blue jeans, the men transform their Tel Aviv formal club wear into Saturday-night-at-the-Kotel appropriate. It may seem conflicting to refer to one of the most revered religious sights as a new hot spot, but it also sums up Israel perfectly, the constant seesaw between religious and secular. In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, the whole country flocks to Jerusalem to repent for their sins, closest to the twilight hours at the Western Wall within the Old City. It is a motley crue of religiosity; driving in, cars vie for space on the tiny streets, windows roll down and people yell out "Eifo ha-Kotel?" A Mercedes Benz with an orthodox family points the known route to a group of young friends squeezed into a baby blue Shevrulet. Everyone's anxious, excited and looking for parking.
For my part, it had been a spur of the moment decision to join in on the ride to Jerusalem. Wearing only jean shorts and a tank top, I was literally plucked from a Tel Aviv bar and put into the Old City. My outfit was not Kotel appropriate, knees and shoulders bare for the world to see. The solution to my immodest dress was to raid the reserves in my friend Shimi’s car. A pair of Hawaiian print cargo shorts reached below my knees, a white t-shirt covered my shoulders and a sheer black wrap with sequins provided the only femininity to my outfit. My friend Tara, equally sinful in a sexy black dress, covered up with an oversize sweatshirt. As she said, she was most Kotel appropriate when a woman’s Yeshiva tried to usher her onto their tour bus when rounding up the young students dressed in long skirts and red sweatshirts.
|Bad boys on the way to the Kotel|
|Oy-va-voy, lo toda.|
As embarrassing as our outfits were, Tara and I didn’t worry too much, if anything we could go ahead and repent for it along with our sins. As the covered alleyway’s of the Old City opened up to the Kotel Plaza, it dawned on Tara and I how far gone our outfits really were. It was clear this was the place to be and to be seen. Women pushed and vied for their chance to touch the wall, all the while holding their designer purses and teetering on high heels. Men compared kippa’s, from knitted warmth to bejeweled relics of Barmitzva’s past. Teen girls with flat-ironed hair and makeup perfectly applied gathered in intimidating numbers to pick apart the fashion choices of the passerby’s. Tara and I equally joined in with our own observations. Is a leopard print blouse and skin-tight black pencil skirt Kotel chic? Are white pants allowed before Yom Kippur and not after like the American tradition of Labor Day? Is wearing a fur vest more appropriate because it symbolizes Abraham’s sacrifice of the ram instead of his son?
We contemplate these nuances of Kotel Couture when Shimi, Rami, and two unbelievably beautiful Israeli women come back to join us. Immediately more self conscious than before, Tara tuggs on her sweatshirt and I readjust my sequined wrap. The ladies before us, one in stylish jeans, a fitted blouse and coat, the other, impeccably accessorized with gold jewelry offsetting a flattering black dress, eye us curiously. Shimi explains that we are his friends from America. I ask if the ladies speak English. They smile politely and say only a little, Tara and I reply with the little Hebrew we’ve picked up. We compare experiences of driving into the city, finding parking, and fighting our way to the wall while also trying to be pious. For a moment, Tara and I forget about the horrendous outfits we wear and enjoy the solidarity of joining with people from all over the world coming to pray at the Kotel. It’s then, a group of good-looking soldiers pass by; Tara and I make a vow, then and there, to never be unprepared for Kotel Chic.