Jerusalem hopped aboard the annual No Pants Subway Ride this month, making January 13th, more precisely, Israel’s first No Pants Light Rail Ride. In case you don’t know, the No Pants Subway Ride is a piece of voluntary performance art – slash – social activism where participants board a train at consecutive stops without pants in the middle of winter. They pay no attention to their pantless compadres, and if pressed for an explanation, reply that they simply forgot to put some on.
The No Pants Subway Ride (not to be confused with “No Pants Day”) is an annual event organized by New York City prank collective Improv Everywhere. They describe the day as “an international celebration of silliness”. Nudity is prohibited; everyone must wear some type of “legitimate” underwear.
Since its Manhattan inception in 2002 (featuring seven riders), the event’s grown legs. Four thousand New Yorkers took part this year, along with tens of thousands more participating in 60 other cities in 25 countries around the world.
But Jerusalem? A town populated by religious Muslims and Jews, and where, in the more orthodox quarters, fully clothed visitors have been assaulted for “immodest dress”?
Tablet Magazine posted a slideshow of event images and reported that Orthodox Jews joined in, and there is a quick peak of a guy wearing Jewish tzitit on the bus in the video below. There are also bold claims that the riders ventured into staunchly Muslim districts, but a flurry of online comments refute that.
Jerusalem event organizer Boaz Balachsan (pictured below) posted in Pantsless in Jerusalem, “I decided we will go end station to end station, we didn’t have enough time to go all the way until the end station from the eastern part but we did pass all the “Arab” stations until “Pisgat Zeev Merkaz” (almost at the end of the line). And I must say that we encountered only smiles and courtesy from the people who boarded in these stations and sat with us.”
So what’s this newsbrief on briefs and panties got to do with the environment?
It’s activism, baby. It’s all about disparate people acting in unison, for no personal gain, for a greater cause: in this case, fun, and possibly hope, too. If social networking can incite people to step out of their comfort zone (quite literally, here), it’s possible people can be aroused to support more focused initiatives. The internet can energize participants for greater actions than flashmobs or SantaCons. Just look to Nation of Change and Avaaz, two websites centered on organizing people around larger political issues.
But it can’t be all work and no play. Said Balachsan, ” Sense of humor knows no borders and is not outlined by nationality and identity issues. We all deserve to have fun and to enjoy a good laugh, and when the opportunity comes, we all use the same muscles to smile.”
Here’s a video made by Israeli filmmaker Yosi Berman (who sadly lost his camera on the way back from the event). Take a peek at his schpiel about that day, and if anyone has a spare camera or movie making gear, why not contact the guy for a much-needed donation.
As Yosi says, “Life is awesome.”
Image of pantless Jerusalemites via the event facebook page.