Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers may not have been on the program, but the special screening in Tel Aviv last week of the new French comedy “Naked Normandy” was clearly a “cheek to cheek” heaven. No stylist was needed and no expensive frocks were prepared for this unusual event: the first-ever nude film screening to be held in Israel.
Eighty participants, from all walks of life and social strata, and with a balanced number of men and women, attended the screening, which was held by the Pashtut — “simplicity” in Hebrew, but also a play on the Hebrew word for “to strip” — organization, founded to promote nudity in Israel.
“Without any clothes on you cannot tell a person’s class,” said Ofer, one of the founders of the group, who asked that Haaretz not publish his full name. (“I’m a schoolteacher by day,” he explained.) Most of those attending were secular, but there were also some religious people, and even a few Orthodox Jews, who were told they did not have to remove their kippa.
By 8 P.M., the event was in full swing. The group gathered in the lobby of the movie theater, where attendees, some of them meeting for the first time, got the chance to mingle completely naked.
“I can sum it up as 10 minutes of complete embarrassment, followed by two hours of ‘why have we never done this before?,’” says Ofer.
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Since nudist events are rare in Israel, it was crucial for the organizers to make sure everyone felt safe and comfortable. So a list of rules was drawn up and distributed in advance: Do not turn up without a clear confirmation of your invitation. Maintain personal space. Nudity is not an invitation to sex. Leave your cellphone and camera at home. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your own towel.
Blame Spencer Tunick
Before Pashtut was founded in 2014 by a group of nudists, led by Ziggy Shahar, the Israeli nudist community was small and hidden and with a somewhat flaccid leadership. The founders met during the large-scale nude shot of American photographer Spencer Tunick at the Dead Sea in 2011, and nowadays the chairwoman of the movement is Keren Zohar Shem-Tov.
“Nudity is much more tolerated and accepted across Europe and other parts of the world, unlike in conservative Israel,” says Ofer. “We want to promote the concept of naturism as a legitimate way of living.”
He adds that members of the group “believe that everything can be done fully clothed, but also completely naked.” Therefore in the last couple of years they have organized naked events such as hanging out in a pub, a poetry reading evening, a sing-along, a candlelighting ceremony on Hanukkah and lessons in making chocolate and sushi.
They planned to have a naked film screening for a while now and contacted several movie theaters, all of which refused. The screening at Cinema City Glilot last week was made possible after the local distributors of the French comedy approached the members of the organization and proposed a nude screening.
Watching a movie is done in the dark, so does it really matter whether you are naked or fully clothed?
“It doesn’t even matter if the movie theater is dark,” says Ofer. “Nudity is a personal and relaxing physical experience that frees us from the constrains of society, at least when it comes to attire. Many people report a better acceptance of themselves after seeing how much they look like others. It’s also just much more comfortable.”
How did you make sure to keep the seats clean?
“We asked everyone to bring extra-large towels, and made sure to also cover the arm rests. We kept everything very clean.”