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Reclaiming The Keffiyah?

Reclaiming The Keffiyah?

Miffed that the keffiyah, the draped checkered headscarf worn by Yasir Arafat and often identified with the Palestinian cause, has become a “must-have” for many fashionistas?

Concerned that even the most humungous Jewish star around one’s neck can’t compete in the ethnic pride department?
If so, check out the “Israeli Keffiyeh,” the brainchild of New Yorker Bernard Chertok. Chertok’s company, Dveykus, manufactures “JewCentric” T-shirts aimed at promoting Jewish pride.

At first glance, the Israeli keffiyah doesn’t look much different from the Arab ones, but closer inspection reveals a blue-and-white Star of David pattern edged with the words “Am Yisrael Chai” — the Jewish People Live — in Hebrew.

Introduced two weeks ago on, a promoter of Jewish music and other culture, the $15 keffiyah has already been bought by “hundreds” of people, according to Erez Safar, founder of Shemspeed. And that’s without any formal marketing.

“The orders have come from the Ukraine, Indonesia, Sweden, the Czech Republic and all over really,” Safar told The Jewish Week via e-mail.
Within days Shemspeed ( plans to release “the official Israeli Keffiyeh Shemspeed song” with a video to follow, Safar said. The scarves will also be introduced on college campuses.

“We would love for more organizations, groups and companies to get involved, but for now the keffiyah has an amazing grass-roots following,” Safar said.
On Shemspeed’s Facebook page, Chertok says he created the Jewish keffiyah because traditional Arab head wear “has become not only a symbol of injustice but a fashion statement. In New York City one cannot go anywhere without seeing people on the street wearing them. The first thing that came to mind was: Do they know what they are wearing? Are they making a statement? If so, what is it? Or are they simply following fashion trends?”

Chertok expresses the hope that the scarf will become “a symbol of Jewish pride, unity of purpose,” and perhaps even “an iconic symbol of our future.”
Safar said that Chertok came up with the idea for the scarf during a 2008 trip to Israel, when he happened upon a Jewish pro-Palestinian rally “where Jews were wearing keffiyehs demonstrating for Palestinian human rights. That’s all it took.”

Safar acknowledged that he has received some negative feedback, “but only from people that view Jews as Eastern European. They forget that Arab Jews are such a massive part of our nation.”

If anything, Safar said, the idea of covering the head for religious purposes “came from the Jewish tradition.” He noted that Jews in his own family and others indigenous to the Middle East have covered their heads “for thousands of years.”

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