Tamar Asraf
Tamar Asraf Tamar is married to Eyal and mother of five children. She lives in Eli. Tamar is the spokesperson for the Binyamin Regional Council. Tuesday 14.4.15 No comments 2197 views

Settlers with Style

When I decided to start learning at Midreshet HaRova (a religious seminary for young women) in Jerusalem’s Old City, I realized that I would have to give up my trusty jeans for a garment I never wore before – a dress.

I’ve hated dresses since I was a little girl. My mother always complained about it, and to this day reminds me that I once hated dresses.

Over the years, the pants I would wear became limited to jeans, and the older and scruffier, the better.

But the circumstances now were different, so I went shopping for a suitable dress. After a lot of searching, I found some shapeless sack that I felt suited the holy atmosphere of the Old City.

It was not long before my jeans became dusty and untouched, and to this day I don’t remember exactly what I did with them. One thing is certain – my wardrobe was taken over by long dresses and skirts that, despite all my attempts to appear religious from birth, always left me looking like I was new at this.

I had a very hard time with the whole clothing thing, because even as a happy and free secular woman, I had loved wearing very casual clothing, and finding the same style with the right religious qualifications was a real nightmare.

The first to sense this change and understand its commercial potential were dozens of new designers with contemporary “biblical” brand names. Women’s head coverings were also revolutionized and became beautiful accessories. Designer scarves, special headbands to prevent them from embarrassingly slipping, decorative pins to embellish the scarves, an entire well-oiled and flourishing industry has sprung up here in the hills. Not to mention the long-sleeved half-sweaters, cleavage covers, fancy underskirts, half-tank tops and anything else you can think of.

An entire economic sector has developed in order to meet the dictates of modesty, which are not always in line with the dictates of fashion.

It is an ingenious idea, an initiative by women with vision, who understood that instead of each of us having to travel an hour to the nearest mall and wander for hours to find a top with long sleeves, and then a skirt that matches her scarf, decided to take action and collect everything we need.

They have opened fabulous boutique stores, the kind you can find in Tel Aviv’s Neve Zedek neighborhood or Jerusalem’s Emek Refaim St., with high quality clothes and all the accompanying accessories. Some are even imported directly from Paris, making you feel like you’re shopping overseas. There are stores that have an in-house personal stylist who will make sure every woman leaves well dressed, and that no customer suddenly has a nostalgic yearning for that settler look of yesteryear.

All of this has a price of course, and a high one at that (special offers are only end-of-season). There are also hilarious moments when everyone arrives at the synagogue wearing the latest fad in the same color and design. But this fashion revolution came at just the right time and has done only good. And thanks to the women who aren’t phased by passing trends and faithfully guard the classic Gush Emunim (the original settlement movement) look, we can always reminisce about how we all used to dress, and think how lucky we are that that time is far away. There’s a new generation of stylish settlers who are conquering the hilltops and dressing with flair.

As for me, even though I’ve made many big changes, switched styles many times, and my wardrobe is full of all the new labels, I still miss my jeans….



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