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Monday, August 25, 2014

Things that are cool in Israel #5: School Uniforms

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I used to not believe in uniforms.

I mean, come on, a pure-white horse with a horn sticking out of its forehead?  How the heck could that be conducive to a peaceful, productive learning environment?

Over and over, my children explained, very patiently, that I had misheard.  That what they had to wear to school every single day was a uniform.  Not a unicorn.

(I say “patiently,” but they said it in the exasperated way that they always used to explain that the boat to the Toronto Islands really does exist, even though I told them I don’t believe in ferries.)

So for years, we pulled together various uniforms.  A tunic thing in elementary school.  Various colours of collared shirts and blouses, tops, bottoms.  Kilts, kilt pins.  Tights, socks, shoes.

(I have never understood – as a Jew who is just a wee bit Scottish by marriage – why Jewish girls’ schools are so drawn to kilts.)

Jewish girls in Scottish kilts

The last year we bought uniforms in Canada (last year), we paid something like $60 each for 3/4 sleeve blouses.  More or less.  Skirts were probably around the same.  Perhaps a bit more.  My daughter literally never had enough uniforms; who can afford that kind of hit right before Rosh Hashanah, every single year.

And we only had one girl in uniforms at any given time – imagine if you had two, or three, or seven.

(Her school had a used-uniforms gemach, to give them out free, but we only managed to get anything worthwhile from it once.)

Israel has a slightly different take on school uniforms.

The school sends out the exact same notice as the schools in Canada:  essentially, “send your child in uniform or else.” 

I worried about it for exactly three minutes last year… until the school secretary sat me down and explained the system:

  1. Find the t-shirt store.
  2. Pick out t-shirts you like (from ₪12 to ₪16 – about $4-5 apiece).
  3. Pay for the t-shirts.
  4. Have school “stickers” ironed onto the t-shirts.
  5. Waah-la… a uniform.

And by the way, I was there, at the store TODAY.  Less than two weeks before school goes back.  Maybe everybody else bought their uniforms months ago, but the store really did look this calm, quiet, and well-organized.

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See how the shirts are all neatly sorted onto the shelves, by size?  Okay, it did start to get a bit busy just as I was leaving.  But overall, it was neat, organized, and nobody was grumpy.  What a nice change.

Here’s the ironer thingy at the store near us:

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I bought eight shirts today, four for each kid.  It probably came to less than $40.  Naomi Rivka’s are 3/4 length, which cost a bit more; GZ’s are short sleeves.  He’ll need long sleeves for the winter, but given that there’s only a month or so of winter, and it won’t get here for a few months, I’m not overly worried.

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Here is Naomi Rivka, fresh out of the bath – one of the perks of her last few days of freedom.

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And, while those $60 blouses always seemed to have holes in the elbows, and the hems were always falling apart on the $80 kilts, these shirts mainly last and last.  Oh, occasionally, they come apart at the seams (they’re cheap t-shirts, after all). 

But mostly, they last and last, the way a uniform is supposed to. 

Oh, drat.  I almost forgot to mention the other half of the uniform.  The bottom half.

I think GZ has to wear pants.  Probably dark colours.  We’ll find out next week.

For Naomi Rivka, it’s skirts.  They have to come below the knee, which all of her skirts do anyway.  And they have to be black or blue or jeans.  The store that sells t-shirts also sells school skirts, which are pretty cheap as well. 

When the ones she still has from last year get too small (they’re still in perfect condition; cheap stretchy cotton-lycra blends, not expensive wool kilts), I’ll go back and buy her a couple more. 

I don’t really mind, because you know what the other really sane thing about school uniforms here is?  The uniform skirts are just regular clothes.  The skirts, being dark (or jeans), match everything else in her wardrobe, and she doesn’t mind wearing them on non-school days.

It just makes sense. 

And by the way, for the first time EVER, I saw on a notice from one of the schools that parents should be aware of the pictures and designs on their kids’ binders and other school supplies.  Yes! 

I actually sent back a folder Naomi Rivka’s school gave her free last year because it had Bratz on the front, all glossy in their very skimpy outfits.  From a religious school?  Oy, vey.  (I wrote them a note explaining why we didn’t want it.)

This country can be a little bit meshuggah sometimes… but when it comes to back to school, it seems like they’ve got some good ideas in the air here.

Have you sent kids to school in Israel?  Are you hoping to very soon?  Let me know in the Comments section what your joys & challenges are or may be.

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


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