16 Ways to Look Ridiculous (in Israel)
Some people, oblivious to the accepted practices of our day, dress in the most ridiculous of outfits and/or engage in the most unusual of conduct. Aside from the aisles of Wal-Mart, Israel must be the eternal capital of style blunders and behavioral shortcomings -- take it from the guy who writes shirtless, can't get to sleep earlier than 5 a.m. and for years wore a pair of bright-orange Crocs.
Here are 16+ odd people and/or scenarios I've observed over the last two weeks -- and yes, I even managed to snap a few photos of my own.
1. Orthodox Jewish girls, once married, either wear a wig (sheitel) or scarf (tichel) to cover their heads from sexually depraved men who might stare at them on public buses. Sometimes these girls are in their early- to mid-twenties and even quite attractive. Now: when they wear their long, fitted skirts and their perfect wigs without so much as a hair out of place, it kind of makes them look like hookers. Indeed, these wigs make some girls look even hotter (or at least sluttier), and attract way more attention than their real hair could ever do -- quite opposite the intended effect. Apparently G-d didn't see that coming! One point, me.
2. If you don't know what an ars is, it's the Israeli version of a guido. These cool dudes sport slick hair, lots of bling and tight, shiny clothing. Full of false confidence, they act like they own the world, travel in packs, fight and try to pick up girls by whistling, hooting or pretending to speak English. They are usually less educated and of Middle-Eastern descent.
Arsim are the Israeli equivalent of guidos, pictured above.
Any resemblance to my own hair is unintended.
I could go on, but let it be known that these loudmouths have little to be proud of besides their designer jeans -- probably stolen -- and the fact that no one -- besides me -- has the courage to tell them to shut up on the bus and turn down the annoying mizrachi music -- a.k.a. Eastern/Arabic music a.k.a. ars music -- rudely blasting from their cell phones. Also note that the Tel Aviv central bus station/mall is "ars central" during the week. For more on Israeli stereotypes, click here.
So the other afternoon, I saw a father and son walking down a sidewalk. The funny thing wasn't how they looked, being arsim and all, but the fact that they were walking in perfect unison, arms swinging, for the whole 25 metres I could watch them. They were marching in step, as if on a mission. It was most amusing. I couldn't help but wonder if they were aware of it, or if it was simply an extension of all their other ridiculous qualities.
Chinese and/or Filipino workers play cards while enjoying refreshments
after a hot day's work. Notice the religious graffiti on the wall behind them.
3. From my shared-taxi window one day, I saw a bunch of migrant Asian workers hanging out on a stoop in south Tel Aviv (the crappy, dirty part with all the old, ugly buildings). I thought it was worth a photo; wouldn't have cropped it, but as you know, you can't zoom in with the camera on the iPhone 3G.
4. While I was carrying groceries back to my apartment, I saw a very pregnant woman holding her child's hand. Her white linen dress was so transparent that I could see her thong through it. I promise I wasn't trying.
5. Denim shorts are back this summer. But not the Levis from 1992 some guy I saw must have dug out of his closet. On a similar note, I've worn socks with sandals many times in my life. But there's no excuse to wear socks with Crocs, and especially not in summer heat.
6. A very tall father was carrying his son on his shoulders in Ness Tsiyona's only mall. As he stepped into this amazing little bakery I was sitting outside, the kid was within inches of smacking his head at the top of the entrance. I imagined what it would have been like if the toddler was swept cleanly off his dad's shoulders.
7. Next, a very religious- and hippie-looking father walked by with his two kids. I don't know if he was actually religious or a hippie, but his hair was extremely long and stringy and he had an ugly wife. So he must have been one of the two -- probably just hippie since he wasn't wearing a kippah. Either way, the boy and girl looked shockingly normal.
A more mature frecha drinks coffee. Notice the clown jumpsuit,
bright-orange nail polish and "exotic" hair and makeup.
8. A frecha is the female equivalent of an ars. Frechot usually hang out in threes or on their own, surrounded by a bunch of arsim. Also loud and obnoxious and lower-class, they paint their nails tacky colours, obsess about their hair and makeup, chew gum and wear high heels like they're going out of style, and wear trashy outfits -- often either tight 80s-style jean shorts or these silly-looking one-piece dresses with floral prints.
And yes, there are even old frechot. I managed to sneak a photo of one such frecha while enjoying some baking at the aforementioned location. She seemed to suspect something when she looked over at me sitting at my table, so of course I tilted, as subtly as possible, my iPhone in a different direction when she did.
9. A crazy old woman gets on the bus with a couple big plastic bags and a carriage filled with random stuff. I don't know if she was homeless and/or cracked out, but she couldn't keep a handle on things and kept talking crazily to people on the bus. Every time the bus came to a halt, her stuff would topple over and this religious girl would help her pick it all up again.
10. There are many poor folk in Israel, usually seniors, who collect empty bottles in order to make ends meet. Many large containers line the streets of Tel Aviv -- public bins into which you can toss your empties to be recycled later on.
For the first time, I saw one such person stealing empties from one of those bins. Trying to do so is like trying to raise a baseball from the other side of a mesh fence. So, as she stuck her hands through the metal-fenced walls of the bin, raising the bottle one hand at a time, I wondered if this should be considered stealing from the city. I also wondered just how efficient it is, and why more people don't do it. I mean, have they already calculated that it would take longer to raise 20 bottles out of the bin than collect the same number from the beach or nearby garbage bins? Do they factor in the risk of getting caught?
How much would your underage kid spend to win a pack of cheap cigarettes?
11. What better way to get children smoking than by placing several packs of cigarettes in one of those claw-prize-pick-up machines? And even more amusingly, what better way to entice them to gamble their money away?
12. You can't help but notice that so many employees of Israeli ministries are Russian. Is that why nothing gets done properly? I've had to go back to one office five times just to receive a reimbursement which is hardly worth more than the bus fare it cost me to get to the office all those times.
13. I tried to take a photo of this, I really did, but we all know how hard it is to take a discreet photo with an iPhone and no flash. As I waited for a bus home from central Tel Aviv around 3 a.m. one night, a second shlobby guy (I was the first) came to wait at the bus stop. He was probably in his forties and may have been drunk -- regardless, I don't know what a schlepper like that could have been doing traipsing around by himself that late.
Either way, his enormous pot belly protruded so far below the bottom of his dirty polo shirt that you wonder if the shirt ever fit him in the first place. You could tell him to pull his shirt down, which I honestly considered doing, but you just know the shirt would pop right back up as soon as you let go. What could compel a man to leave his house with total disregard for the fact that his fat gut is hanging out below his shirt for all the world to see?
Following a biblical commandment not to shave the sides of one's face,
male members of most Hassidic groups wear long, uncut sideburns
called peyos. Many shave off the rest of their hair.
14. Few hairstyles are uglier than that of young Hassidic boys.
15. You could endlessly discuss the absurd and often arrogant behaviour of Israeli bus and taxi drivers. One driver would yell at jay-walkers and then fail to yield at pedestrian crossings . Another didn't know the name of a major street he drives along on his route -- you know, the one that passes all the major government offices in the city. Another offered to pour cups of bottled water for the passengers of his 10-person shared taxi van. Oh yes, and of course there is the one who told me to get off at the wrong bus stop and hence contributed to me having to wait seven hours in the desert to catch my next bus.
My favourite -- and most dangerous -- mode of transportation in Israel is the shared taxi.
16. Finally, this one young guy with a full head of long, shaggy hair boarded my bus one day. The unusual thing was that a few minutes after he sat down right in front of me, I noticed a little green worm crawling in his hair. It moved so interestingly as it pulled its backside up, turning its body into an inverted U in order to propel its front side forward once again. Once it fell onto his neck collar, it touched and tested the back of the guy's neck with its front end -- yet the guy never felt it. Crazily enough, the worm managed to climb back into his hair by clinging onto the very tip of the finest piece of hair, and somehow yanking the rest of its body onto it.
It was amazing. I was amazed. In fact, I was so enthralled that during those 10 minutes, not once did I consider telling the poor guy he had a worm in his hair.
You might be surprised how many strange and amusing things you'll encounter when you start taking public transportation and occasionally stop to taste the baking. While seasoned city-dwellers are no doubt accustomed to all the weirdos out there, suburban Edmontonians such as myself are accustomed only to the weirdos within.
What's the strangest thing or person YOU'VE seen this summer?