I cannot believe I did it! I went into Meah Shearim, in the “forbidden” quarter and actually took some photos without harassing or upsetting anyone and I have even gotten some more contacts for my project. Hurray for believing I could dressed-up like a Hassidim once again and work my magic with my few yiddish words and my english in the oldest Orthodox neighborhood in the world. Maybe, it could have been “my Persian looks” **(someone the other day in the bus told me I look rather Persian…I take it as a very big compliment since Persian women are stunning) or maybe it was the secret energy of my vibrant supporting crew from all over the globe sending positive vibes so that I could succeed in this task…. In any case, whomever has written on guidebooks or elsewhere that Haredim or Hassidim in Meah Shearim will crucify you if you take their photos, are WRONG.
Well, they do not actually like to be photographed, and that’s why I did not over do it and could not actually use my flash and take as many, but I asked to some women and few of them said yes, others said no thanks and the ones I caught in the moment, simply walked away…but not spitting or crying or yelling or stoning. All among the normal things one could expect.
This Yemenite woman below, only allowed me to photograph her from the back because her face was uncovered and they are very aware of that, so their eyes and face MUST be cover by their black vail at all times, sometimes some of them keep their eyes uncovered. At a first glance I had to ask her if she was Jewish or Muslim, but then when she said “I am like Rachel, Rivka and Leah and I cover my body as my temple this way,” I figured she was indeed another type of Orthodox woman. She was so kind to give me her contact info so I can go back and take more photos when she is dress “fancier.”
Not so bad for a day inside the “ultra-orthodox” world.
Now, the real challenge will be to go back and take the “great pictures,” the ones that you just wait and wait for hours before you get accustom with your subject and then you take and hope they won’t make you erase them. Well, let’s just hope to run into the same open-minded people I met today wondering the enclosed streets of the community.
I know the way will be arduous and I know I will not always meet positivity, but I sure strive for perfection and I have a lot of patience when it comes to this project. So I want to say, I foresee only great things coming my way.
Speaking of positivity, for example…I am not really sure how I also met a very nice guy Alex who got a ride to another Orthodox neighborhood on the other side of town where I got fed spaghetti meat balls for dinner *(Brooklyn style!) and even got a lesson on the laws of modesty among women from a mid wife, not to mention a notebook full of new contacts even in Zvat.
Tomorrow wake-up call at 6:30am to photograph an orthodox wedding. Wish me luck!
And the wheel keeps on turning and the prize gets better and better by the day.
Laila Tov, Gerusalemme mia!
Meah Shearim trial 1