By La Carmina
When my film team and I traveled to Israel for the first time, we were fascinated by the juxtaposition of ancient and avant-garde. In a single day, I’d cover my shoulders to approach the Wailing Wall, and then let loose with drag queens at gay clubs. In particular, the underground fashion, nightlife, and food blew me away. Be sure to watch the video above, and then read my observations on all three below.
La Carmina at the Dead Sea (Photo: Melissa Rundle/LaCarmina.com)
1. The indie fashion
I have been immersed in Tokyo fashion for years. That said, I was still very impressed by the work of Tel Aviv’s fashion scene. Galit Reismann, the owner of Tel Aviv’s TLVstyle Boutique Tour, took me on a TLVstyle Tour, where she introduced me to local designers and shops.
I met “mad hatter” Tami Bar-Lev, who makes headwear that looks like banana peels, fish bones, and glittering forks. We had tea with Shelly Dahari, a jewelry-maker working with unexpected vintage materials, like shekel coins.
Quite a few local designers are inspired by worldwide subcultures, too. I bonded with Mor Valin of Pioo Pioo; her designs have elements of twee (which is a form of super sweet/precious fashion) and Harajuku, which is often considered the center of Japanese youth culture and fashion. I was particularly impressed by one of her colorful dresses, which had a spaceship on it, along with a fringe hem to mimic “blastoff.”
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Mor Valin of Pioo Pioo points to a unicorn wedding dress. (Photo: Melissa Rundle/LaCarmina.com)
2. The LGBT and drag queen scene
In the conservative Middle East, Israel is an anomaly. This ancient land is home to a progressive gay nightlife — and, boy, is it ever fabulous.
Osh-Ree sings onstage at the popular gay club Evita. (Photo: Melissa Rundle/LaCarmina.com)
On any given weekend, you’ll find several LGBT clubs raging with hundreds of people on the dance floor. My favorite was Evita: On Fridays, entrance is free, and drag queens take the spotlight. When I went, performers Osh-Ree and K-Long cackled with the crowd in Hebrew and worked the stage while lip-synching to 1980s hits.
Osh-Ree told me that Israel’s gay scene has come a long way since it was legalized in 1988. Now Tel Aviv is one of the world’s top LGBT travel destinations. With no curfew, Israelis party hard and long until past dawn. Why? As Osh-Ree put it, “In this part of the world, you never know when it might be your last night to dance.”
3. The hip fusion restaurants
Israel’s hippest restaurants tend to serve traditional cuisine with a creative fusion twist. Chefs emphasize fresh and local flavors; at MachneYuda, the ingredients come from the “Shuk” market next door. I tried a lamb and hummus dish, ceviche, and a tomato-cauliflower salad. I’m still dreaming about the triple platter of desserts: tiramisu on top, a deconstructed cheesecake with berries in the middle, and “Uri’s mother’s semolina cake” dotted with tahini ice cream at the bottom.
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But the food is just part of the fun; it’s also about the scene itself. At MachneYuda, I watched a bartender do cocktail acrobatics, while the chefs made flaming dishes in the open kitchen. Between taking orders, the waiters danced to upbeat covers of Prince and Lana Del Ray.
A lively evening at MachneYuda restaurant (Photo: La Carmina/LaCarmina.com)
Did you know Israel had such an energetic culture? What do you think of the country’s unique mix of modern and ancient?