Jeans Knesset 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Even in a country known for its casual dress, informality has its limits.
The Knesset unleashed the fashion police ahead of the opening of its winter session Monday, saying visitors dressed improperly would not be allowed into the building.
"Entrance to the Knesset will be barred to anyone wearing unbecoming attire, such as sleeveless T-shirts, short pants, jeans and, for women, short T-shirts that expose the midriff," Knesset director-general Avi Balashnikov said.
The guards stationed in the entrance to the building, whose job is usually to prevent weapons from entering the building, busied themselves with enforcing the new dress code.
Knesset staffers wearing jeans were sent home in the morning, but the rule was relaxed later in the day after Balashnikov received complaints that the rule change was not properly publicized. The Knesset's spokesman said the rules would be fully enforced starting Tuesday.
One Knesset staffer said she made it past the guards, but then her boss told her to take a cab home and change. She said she was outraged by the dress code and that if she didn't live in Jerusalem, she would not have agreed to go home.
"If they want to dictate how we dress, they should pay us more," she said. "I dress much nicer than some MKs. Why should I have to buy a new wardrobe?"
The order appeared to be aimed specifically at the local media and parliamentary staffers. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office issued a similar dress code after a female journalist arrived at a news conference in a skin-baring top.
Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich called Balashnikov to complain after her aide was prevented from entering the building. She lashed out at Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik for wasting her time on such trivialities.
"The time has come for the Knesset speaker to stop dealing with irrelevant and stupid things like flower arrangements, carpeting and the fabric of my assistant's pants and start dealing with matters of substance," Yacimovich said.
Itzik responded that most of the responses to the rule change have been positive. She said that parliaments around the world had dress codes and that dressing properly was part of the respectful behavior necessary for a public servant.
"People can't come here in their slippers anymore - get used to it," she said.