"I feel true Jewish pride, because this is what a Jewish woman is supposed to look like."

Lipaz Vaknim

Location: Basic clothing store, Sokolov Street, Herzliya

Residence: Herzliya

Age: 17½

The encounter: I visited the store to buy school t-shirts for my daughter. Initially, I got into a conversation with the other sales person, a secular young woman who complained to me about the stress of living in Israel. When I paid with an American credit card, she asked about life in North America and told me she and her husband were considering to emigrate to Canada. Lipaz jumped into the conversation. “How can you just give up and leave?” she told her coworker, “According to the rabbis, the fact that life is getting tougher and tougher is a sign that the Messiah will come soon.”

What is your occupation?
I’m still in high school. But I work here every day after school and during my vacations. If you want to buy a house in Israel, you have to start working young. Eventually, I want to study education. My ambition is to open an institution for troubled girls. That’s my dream.

Can you tell me a bit about your family?
My parents have two pairs of twins: I have a twin brother, and my other brother and sister are twins as well.

How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I’m ultra-orthodox. But I’m not from an ultra-orthodox family. That’s why I can work in a secular place like this. I go to a religious high school, and through some of the lessons and books, I found my own way to return to the faith. I also convinced some of my friends to become more religious.
My parents are observant, but not ultra-orthodox. At first, they didn’t take it well that I was becoming more religious. They saw it as criticism of themselves, as if I thought they were not religious enough. But now it’s fine.
When I dress like this, in a long skirt and stockings, I feel true Jewish pride, because this is what a Jewish woman is supposed to look like. Everywhere I go, people can see I’m Jewish. Just as some Muslim girls dress in such a way that everyone can identify them as Muslims. It’s good when there’s no room for confusion: when our identity is clear. We should be proud. We shouldn’t try to imitate western culture and dress like them. 

Where is your family from?
We are from Morocco. Both my parents were born in Israel, but my grandparents came from Morocco with their families when they were teenagers.
First they lived in transit camps in Ma’alot. They had a hard life. Back in Morocco, they had jobs and status, but they lost it all when they came here. Also, the religion here was completely different. I mean, here, everyone is secular. My grandparents told me they couldn’t believe their eyes when they first arrived here. They had expected to find a holy place or the temple, or maybe even the Messiah. But it was the opposite: the ideal of the new Israelis was to get rid of religion; to have no connection to Judaism.
I have been very much influenced by the stories they told me. It’s important to know how it all started. When you ask yourself what it means to be an Israeli, you should know the past. One reason I want to dress more modestly is because I know it would please my great-grandmothers. They dressed very modestly. For them, it was strange to see women wearing sleeveless shirts and revealing clothes. They were not used to that in Morocco. They thought that even the way my mom dresses is a corruption of our culture because she wears pants and doesn’t cover her hair.

What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
I hope that the Messiah comes, because that, in my opinion, is the only solution that can solve all the problems: war, peace...At a human level, I don’t see any other solution. Because there’s always something: always a new war or some other problem.
It’s part of our burden as the Jewish People: every generation undergoes a different kind of suffering: the Holocaust, slavery in Egypt, the destruction of the temple... We’re used to hardship. But at some point, the world just can’t go on.
I think that at this time, now that people feel they can’t take it anymore, and now that everyone is stressed and worried – this means we’re near the end. It’s like when a woman gives birth: when the pain is at it worst, that’s when she’s ready to give birth. That’s the way it is for Israel: as it’s getting more and more difficult, we know the messiah is about to arrive.