They only tell you stories from Israeli buses, from the Shuk. It's time you hear about our changing rooms too. They are the true key to Israel.
I'm trying on a sweater, minding my own business, enclosed in a curtained booth, when a head peeps through, imposes itself between curtain and plywood wall. "Mind if I join you?"
Before I know what's happening, head is followed by body, and both are beside me, inside the now cramped space.
"Thanks so much! Are you sure you don't mind?"
I nod mutely. Haven't quite figured out what's going on yet.
She begins to strip. Soon she's standing there in underwear, entirely unembarrassed. I back out of the stall, feeling rather in the way.
"Oh, you don't need to go! You don't mind me sharing your stall do you? There aren't any empty ones." She steps into a pair of jeans, starts pulling the denim fabric up her legs.
I guess it's her choice. I only have a pile of sweaters to try on, over my shirt. There's no real reason not to do it front of her. I stay in the cubicle.
But I try to imagine the same scene happening abroad, and fail miserably.
Modesty can be taken to the opposite extreme too.
"Is this skirt too short?" I ask my friend. I sit down on a stool, and try to see if it still covers my knees.
"It's much too short!"
I spin around. Is that woman speaking to me? She is. "None of the skirts here are Tznius", she tells me.
"Um, right." I say. "Thanks."
She's a soft spoken French woman. She means well. She's merely giving me advice. Never mind that I didn't ask for it. Never mind that she's never laid eyes on me before in her life.
Hey, we are all one big happy family, right? Nobody is a stranger in Israel.
4 days ago