Urban in Israel?

Noa Kattler Kupetz

Staff Writer

Flipping through the Urban Outfitter’s Early Spring/January 2011 catalog, I noticed a white sculpture in the background of one of the photos. I had definitely seen that sculpture before and as I scanned my mind for the memories of where and when, it finally came to me: that sculpture, created by Dani Karavan, is located near the beach… in Tel Aviv. I scanned the rest of the catalog, excited to realize that I recognized multiple locations of the photos, all of which had been shot in Tel Aviv. Signs of hotels and restaurants, all written in Hebrew could be found behind the models that were wearing trends of the season-to-come. I felt the glowing satisfaction of being the winner of an eye-spy battle I hadn’t even known I was playing.

At Milken, Jewish summer camp, and synagogue, I am surrounded by Jewish culture. But outside of these institutions, I find myself engulfed in American media that scarcely relates to Judaism or Israel. Because of this, finding even the smallest connection to Judaism in pop culture is always exciting.

According to Urban Outfitter’s Facebook page, “We were craving some warm weather, so we headed to sunny Tel Aviv with photographer Marlene Marino to shoot our early spring catalog.” But why Israel? A short trip to Mexico or Hawaii would have settled the companies crave for warm weather. Unlike American companies such as H&M and Gap that have set up stores in Israel, Urban Outfitters has yet to even sell their merchandise there.

The photographer of the catalog, Marlene Marino, is an American born artist.

“I’m after an intimacy where you can actually feel the presence of the people and of the place,” is one of the first things written on Marino’s website. So that’s why one endures a fifteen-hour plane ride to snap photos for a company most adored by American teens- to capture moments in arguably the most historic and religiously significant place in the world.

If you are looking for a location with history embedded in its soil, Israel is the treasure chest. Models adorned in flashy prints and clunky heals pose near the Jaffa Port, the same place that Jewish historian Josephus wrote about thousands of years ago, a place mentioned four times in the Bible and the place that David Ben-Gurion eagerly stayed up to see.

It’s interesting to see pictures of the country that is so holy to me and a place that is usually associated with the past through the eyes of hip fashion. I feel connected with the land these models are posing on, with the sea that’s hitting the shore behind them. Seeing a company that can be found in every Milken student’s closet displayed in photos of our homeland fills me with happiness and a sense of pride. Just like the Urban Outfitter boots you bought last weekend, Israel has a side that is cool and trendy. But unlike those new boots, behind Israel are our ancestors’ dreams and the past and future of Judaism.

(Photos from: Urban Outfitter’s Facebook profile)