Friday, September 21, 2012

Haircovering in Israel

Posted by Ask Chavi at 9:06 AM
Sorry for my long summer vacation from posting.  First we had a trip to Israel, then we had Rosh Hashana.. and I am still busy with the holidays until mid-Octiber.  I hope to bring more sheitel Q&A as well as new videos in the coming months!!!
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I was fortunate enough to take a vacation to Israel (Eretz Yisroel) this summer.  As a wig freak, it was a unique opportunity to survey the situation on the ground.  I thought I'd share some observations about Israel in general.
First of all, it seems that high-end modular strollers are the norm here (in affluent urban areas).  I was shocked by how many Bugaboos I saw.  There were also a lot of strollers similar to the bugaboo (bassinet style on all terrain wheels)  by European brands that are not sold in the USA.  So either people spend a lot of money on strollers because they can, or because its a necessity.  I figured it would make sense to have a nice stroller if you are a one or no car family and you spend most of your time walking.  Either way, it contrasted with any idea in my mind about Israel being less affluent then the US, certainly there are wealthy people there now, but I also know that there are very poor people in Israel, I just was not in their neighborhoods on this trip.
Another strange thing that really bothered me was that I saw infant car seats placed in the front passenger seats of cars.  I prayed to G-D that those cars did not have passenger-side airbags.  But even if they didn't, I couldn't comprehend why someone would put their infant in danger like that when there was a perfectly good and safer backseat available in the car.  People are more lax about car seats and safety in general there.  We rented a car but did not pick it up until after our first shabbos so when the taxi driver picked us up at the airport he was shocked as I meticulously installed our car seats into the car.  
Onto the hair coverings.  As a whole, I saw very few women wearing sheitels in Israel.  We went to the Ramat Gan safari and I would say that 90% of attendants were religious, yet I only saw one sheitel in the entire zoo.  (she was Lubavitch)  Most women wore scarves, tichels, mitpachot, snoods, hats, etc.  Maybe it was because it was hot, or maybe its because women in Israel are not as limited to wear only sheitels.  I feel in Israel the general population knows what it means when they see a woman dressed modestly in a skirt with a head covering.  They know she is a religious Jewish woman.  In the United States, especially in "out of town" communities, if you are wearing a scarf people think (g-d forbid) that maybe you have been undergoing chemo treatment.  Sometimes hippie type people would compliment my tichels and ask where I got them because they looked cool and ethnic.  Either way, wearing a scarf makes you stand out from the general population.  Wearing a hat can look normal at certain times of the year, but hats look better with some hair coming out, so either you are also wearing a hat fall or you are showing some hair which many frum women will not do. 
In contrast, in Israel, what type of covering not only says you are a frum woman, but it tells other WHAT kind of Jewish woman you are and tells the observer which community you are in.  For example, I saw some covered sheitels and obviously chasidish dressed ladies.  I whispered to my DH "that is a covered sheitel! they are chasidish" he was like... "so?"
Then there are all types of different scarves.  If you wear a snood with all hair covered, versus showing a centimeter.  A pre-tied scarf accompanied by black attire and tights signifying someone Charedi versus a huge wrapped turbanish scarf with sandals identifying you as a settler perhaps.  Then there are the many women who are dati leumi or dati lite covering partial hair.  I saw everything from short hair out of a hat, to women who just wear a small headband as a head covering.  Some dati leumi wear tichels that cover all hair except an inch or so along the hairline, all these things just identify community and personal standards. 
I saw a few beautiful sheitels.  I was at the kinyon ayalon near Bnei Brak and from afar I saw this beautiful young lady dressed modesty in a skirt and 3/4 length sleeve high neck collar T shirt pushing a stroller and I said to myself, "Is she not covering her hair?" yet I knew that the hair was so pretty it must be a sheitel.  As she got closer I realized she was integrating her sheitel in the most interesting way.  She didn't pull her hair over the top of the sheitel, it was as if an inch of bang was just side parted just the right way to mask the hairline of the sheitel and make it seem like it was her hairline.  I wanted to stop her and ask who her sheitel macher is, but then I remembered that everyone speaks Hebrew and I speak English.
Motzi Shabbos (Saturday night) in Jerusalem near Ben Yehuda/Yaffo street near the new light-rail line, I saw the most sheitels of the trip.  Young women out with their husbands in their sheitels,some pushing strollers,  I thought to myself "I bet they are American and her husband is studying in kollel".  Young married women out together for a girls night out, all sorts of interesting people to watch.  It was a good feeling though, to see all types of Jews, and arabs, out together at the same cafes and restaurants.
While I was in the shop Bandana trying to buy apron tichels, headbands, scarves, pretieds and hats as fast as possible while my husband waited with both strollers outside I felt a serious achdus (Jewish unity-ness) with all of the women in the shop, even though some wore hats over exposed hair, some wore snoods, some wore covered sheitels (a young chasidish girl was trying on pillbox hats on her above shoulder length dark brown sheitel and I wanted to take a picture so badly but realized that is creepy)  As for me, I wore my sheitel (band fall) a total of one time during my entire two-week journey, when we visited distant cousins in kfar Chabad.  I figured it was the most respectful thing to do, considering all Lubavitchers wear sheitels.  I am not sure if the women in Kfar Chabad know about my blog, but its true, AskChavi was there, incognito!  The cousins were so amazed that I knew so much about sheitels and was downright obsessed, but that's another story.  Otherwise, I felt comfortable in scarves and hats throughout Israel, which made me realize that maybe Israel really is home....
"Bandana" on King George in Jerusalem

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