The Arty Semite

Feminist Fashion in the Tower of David

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
Tamar Karavan

It’s a striking experience to enter a hall dating to the Crusader period deep in the bowels of the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem, and to encounter mannequins draped in haute couture by some of the Israel’s top contemporary fashion designers.

This is exactly the effect desired by new museum director Eilat Lieber and the exhibition’s curator, fashion photographer Tamar Karavan. “It’s a groundbreaking exhibition for this museum,” said Tower of David spokeswoman Caroline Shapiro, about the institution, which is known more for its archeologically excavated layers of the Holy City than for layers of fabric draped over models.

“Threads,” as the exhibition is titled, invites visitors to “experience contemporary fashion embroidered by history.” On view are exquisite garments created by 10 of Israel’s leading fashion designers — all women — inspired by 10 remarkable women from Jerusalem’s past. It’s a fashion show and feminist history lesson all rolled in to one.

“The brief to the designers was, ‘This historical character walks into your studio — dress her,’” explained Shapiro. “That’s it. The designer did not have to be historically accurate in any way, or even be historically inspired. She was free to interpret the woman in any way she wished.”

The result are stunning creations displayed on faceless black mannequins, and also in large photographs, in which the clothes are modeled by 10 female celebrities including writers, actresses, dancers and models. Karavan, who did the photography, had the women pose in Jerusalem locations related to the lives of the historical figures. The show would not be complete without these photographs, which provide a rich visual context that elevates the historical and biographical information presented on text panels next to the mannequins.

Actress Einat Erlich stands at the foot of the stairway inside the Ben Yehuda residence on Ein Gedi Street. She channels Hemda Ben Yehuda, the second wife of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, in an ensemble designed by Rachel Cohen. Erlich wears a long white dress with a front panel with a relief print with words Ben Yehuda invented for everyday use. The lace detailing at the cuffs and collar, along with an open black overcoat, transports the viewer to the late Victorian era. Notably, Hemda Ben Yehuda, who was a pioneer of Hebrew journalism and an activist for women’s rights, coined the Hebrew word for fashion, ofna.

Actress Dana Igvy cuts a sexy yet strong figure in a black crocheted and fringed vest with intricate multi-textured detailing inspired by Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem, and designed by Aluma. Daughter of Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem, Melisende was the first native-born ruler of the Crusader period and is remembered for establishing convents and churches in the city and for being a patron of the arts.

One could almost mistake writer Zeruya Shalev for 20th-century poet, playwright and painter Else Lasker-Schüler as she poses on a pathway in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood in a creation by Hagar Alembik. Shalev wears a richly embroidered blue, brown and gold robe directly inspired by the Indian fakir or Eastern prince costumes Lasker-Schüler would wear as she presided over literary salons.

The other historical figures represented are Roxelana (wife of Suleiman the Magnificent), Queen Helene (Queen of Adiabene in the Pathian Empire who reached Jerusalem in 30 CE and embraced Judaism), the biblical Queen of Sheba, the Empress Helena (consort of the Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus and mother of Constantine the Great), Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi (a leading labor Zionist and wife of Israel’s second president), and Salome Alexandra (a Hasmonean queen who brought peace to the land).

There is also one fictional character in the group — Shira, the eponymous heroine of S.Y. Agnon’s novel. The heroine, a nurse, is portrayed by model Mirjam Roth wearing nothing but a sheer teddy with men’s tailoring details, designed by Anya Fleet in response to the femininity hidden under Shira’s tough exterior manner.

These are all women who made enduring impressions on Jerusalem. “Their names are familiar from the street signs, but people don’t know them, their stories,” noted Shapiro. “Threads” cloaks these women in splendor and breathes new life in to them — at the very least while the exhibition continues, through October 4.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tower of David, Threads, Tamar Karavan, Renee Ghert-Zand, Fashion, Exhibits

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.