The Representation of Women in Everyday Life in J’lem

“Egged cuts humans from J’lem bus ads,” reads a headline this morning. Soon there will be no humans in J’lem, only angels and jackals. Meanwhile, women still walk on J’lem’s streets. But what kind of women? One answer comes from Canaan Media, the ad agency with exclusive rights to place ads on Egged buses. According to Canaan, the women in Jerusalem cannot be represented in ads in sleeveless tops and if they appear at all (which they won’t, apparently) their sleeves must be elbow-length.

I always thought my elbows were my best feature. When I was younger, I would walk down Jaffa Road, turn left up Strauss, take a right on Prophets, a left on Tribes of Israel to the Street of One Hundred Gates. Behind me trailed a bunch of holy men who had dropped whatever business they had to do downtown to follow me, whispering in Hebrew, Yiddish, French, English, “Your elbows, oh your elbows.”

The more naughty men even tried to touch my elbows. That’s when I learned that, not only were they my strongest erogenous zone, they were also my strongest weapon. Not a few holy men received one of my elbows in their ribs.

If any words of Torah had been in their heads before their morning jaunt to downtown Jerusalem, the only words these holy men  could mutter after they saw my arms were, Elbow, Elbow, Elbow. Due to the first two letters of this word, their strong sexual desire got mixed up with religion. They interpreted this confusion as a message from their Evil Inclination.  

I saw this in their scared and confused eyes when I turned around to the group of men, now numbering in the hundreds, at the center of Sabbath Square. I folded my arms and raised my elbows heavenward. The holy men  shrunk. Then I clapped my elbows together, hiding my face, opened them abruptly, my lascivious elbows pointing east and west to the ends of the earth. I repeated this  clapping movement several times until most of the holy men were flat on their backs on the street, unable to control themselves. Some panted. Others wet their pants. Some foamed at the mouth. I had never known I had such power and, truth be told, rather enjoyed it.  

Once all the holy men covered the Square and traffic from Kings of Israel came to a halt,  I belted in elementary Hebrew, Stop hounding me. My voice, like my elbows, was beautiful back then in my twenties, which caused the men to become even more helpless.

Fortunately, years later I left Jerusalem. Now I live .7 kilometers west of the Holy City. Life is normal here in the Judean hills, with only the cemetery and the forest separating me from insanity.  Of course, unlike angels, I’ve aged. My elbows are wrinkled, the skin chapped.

But my wrists, ahhh my wrists.  Whenever I do go up to Jerusalem and wait for the Light Rail on Jaffa Road, those wrists make the men go crazy.

About Judy Labensohn

I'm a writer and teacher of writing.
This entry was posted in Jerusalem, Protest, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to The Representation of Women in Everyday Life in J’lem

  1. Joan Leegant says:

    Judy, this post is just brilliant! I wrote a Comment on the blog. Just fantastic. You have a tiny typo in the sentence below: “…after they saw by arms were, Elbow, Elbow, Elbow.” I think you meant, after they saw MY arms…etc. What a wonderful post! I shall share it on my Facebook of course. Love, J


  2. Esther Hecht says:

    You wrote: “That’s when I learned that, not only were they my strongest erogenous zone, they were also my strongest weapon.” You and Paul Newman. Remember him in The Prize?
    I recently saw a horrific movie called The Whistleblower, about trafficking of teenage girls in Bosnia, in which someone makes a cynical comment about women being the collateral damage in wars. Clearly, they are the collateral damage in any patriarchal society or situation (wars and Street of the Hundred Gates included).
    Your whimsical take on this, however, is more powerful than any earnest argument.


  3. Michelle Shabtai says:

    Judy, this is brilliant!

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Shosh says:

    When I heard the news about Egged’s decision to eliminate all humans from its advertisements rather than display women, I knew there was a blog in there. You hit the spot brilliantly.


  5. Frances Oppenheimer says:

    Judy you are too much, too funny, too wonderful and I am a coward that I didn’t write and defend you after those horrendous attacks from your last blog. I felt so sad that the people whose comments I managed to read before weeping couldn’t say “this is not the first example of senseless hatred we have seen round here, but this one was carried out by my people and I am horrified and ashamed”
    Love your elbows and your wrists!


    • Thanks, Frances. Yes, those attacks to my last post were shocking. I wasn’t sure if I should enter into a dialogue with some of those crazy people or just ignore them, as a self-defense martial arts teacher once taught me. Of course, if I had been at Zion Sq. and acted according to the advice of the self-defense m.a.t. I would have walked away and done nothing more than raise my voice to prevent the violence. .On Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 1:40 PM,


  6. Jane A says:

    Here (stateside) it’s much more subtle–we have men making laws that say only a “forcible” rape is a rape– what does that mean??? Men make the laws, men are the judges, men are the Rabbis in the Orthodox tradition– and until all that changes, women will remain on the bottom so to speak.


    • It goes without saying, Jane, that men are also the rapists. Thanks for your comment. “Forcible” rape reminds me of the Rape Song from “The Fantastiks,” which doesn’t sound funny anymore.


  7. C’mon Judy, Yes Egged is off the deep end. There is no halachic requirement to excise the female face from advertising photos. . Some Chassidic groups don’t like any photos of women. and I they wield enough economic power for Egged to accede to their demands.
    Even so,I’d vote for off the deep end tznius over the rampant sexualization that characterizes western culture. While every group has it’s bad apples, the Haredim have many more good ones and even some genuinely Holy Jews.


    • Dear Tzirelchana, I am sure the Haredim have many good apples and even some genuinely Holy Jews. I only wish those good apples and Holy Jews would teach their brethren to be tolerant of all people created b’tzelem, if those people wear shorts and t’s.


      • Just as we have a diet, we Jews have a dress code and shorts and T’s don’t cut it. Frankly, I ‘m pleased that Haredi men attempt to “guard their eyes.” Isn’t that way better than men who stare or ogle or cop a feel?


        • Shoshana London Sappir says:

          Civilized people guard their eyes by looking the other way, not cursing and chasing people down the street.


          • . The notorious Beit Shemesh experctorator really did a job on you, Shoshana. He was a nut case and I don’t know anybody who condoned his behavior.
            BTW, when a group of not quite completely buttoned up young women came to visit Rebetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, obm, a local man opened a foul mouth to them,. The Rebetzin who was famous for her calm nature, told him to get lost. Unfortunately there is a widespread bellief that a Torah observant lifestyle combination of the radical Islam, witchcraft and a dash of medieval Christianity The truth is that the Torah provides a refined, spiritual, down to earth and civl path through life. Over the millenium , the Torah has proven itself as the best system for creating good human beings.


            • Rena Yechieli says:

              Tzirel Chana you wrote: “Over the millenium , the Torah has proven itself as the best system for creating good human beings.”

              So you’re saying that Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Druze, Christians, Taoists, Moslems, Shintoists, Zoroastrianists, Baha’i, followers of folk religions, animists, atheists and all who live by books, faiths and systems other than the Torah and Judaism are less good human beings.

              Doesn’t sound “refined, spritual, down to earth and civil” to me.

              — Rena Yechieli


        • The reality is that many (most?) Jews in the world today neither keep the diet (kashrut) nor the dress code. That doesn’t make them less Jewish. I think it’s great that Haredi men “guard their eyes” since it is THEIR problem. They should take full responsibility for their problem and not expect women to dress a certain way because they can’t control their sexual urges.


  8. Mark Jay Mirsky says:

    Dear Judy,

    I enjoyed your jaunt with naked elbows through Jerusalem. It has the smack of your fiction at the moments when I savored it. Alas that I was not there, discretely, to watch you put the holy men in their place.



  9. Rena Yechieli says:

    Judy, this is a brilliant and funny post in a sad context. Thank you!

    Watch out for those sexy cuticles. Oops I forgot there already are women who have to wear gloves outside all year. In this country too. I guess our “holy men” still have a thing or two to learn from their “holy men.”

    –Rena Yechieli


  10. canalwriter says:

    Judy, I’ve only just caught up with this – lying in bed, sunny autumnal morning, Liszt on the radio, going through all the communications I’ve saved to read AFTER my hand-in date. Submitted 8 chapters – so now am free..
    Loved the blog. I have a thing about wrists. When I was about 12 my mum caught me smelling the insides of mine. She laughed and said she had done this all her life. In 2014 will be 50 years since her death. Wow. I’m still smelling my wrists.
    My elbows appall me, and all men, I guess, religious or not. Never mind. Love Judith


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