Daily Life: Mea She’arim
With news a bit slow in Jerusalem these past several days, I’ve been filling out Flash90’s stock collection of daily life in the very old, insular and ultraconservative Mea She’arim (lit: “100 Gates”) neighborhood.
The residents, members of a range of Haredi sects, represent the hard line against modernity in Israeli society. The streets are plastered with posters warning Zionists, tour groups, immodest women and iPhone users (among others) to keep out – or in some cases calling for their deaths. Yiddish is more prevalent than Hebrew in some parts, and the unemployment/welfare rate is deliberately high. Some women, derisively called the “Taliban Jews” in the dominant secular society, have begun to adopt rigid burka-like body coverings that do not swish when they walk and lack even slits for their eyes. (These same women were among the most likely to flee when I approached.)
Photography in Mea She’arim is a bit of a challenge, and I resorted increasingly to trickery and cropped zooms to get the job done. For some reason, the only private institutions that let me inside were the barbershops. Even on the streets I was occasionally dealt a swift kick from passersby.
Despite the hostility toward photographers, I tried to be respectful in my shooting. There is a tendency to shoot such alien groups like animals in a zoo, or to be disruptive, which I did my best to avoid. The last image is of a pair of young boys who made themselves exceptions when they ran up to me from behind squealing that I MUST take their picture RIGHT NOW.