A Parliamentary Salon? Brows Are Furrowed in Israel

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JERUSALEM -- At first blush, it seemed simple enough: With a record number of women recently elected to Israel's Parliament, one of them suggested, why not set aside a room for them to freshen up during long days of lawmaking, perhaps pooling personal funds to engage a makeup artist so they could look their best on TV?

But politics has a way of smudging things, particularly in a season of austerity budgets. So when word got out Thursday about the proposed salon -- perhaps thanks to a female lawmaker from a rival faction who ridiculed the idea -- outrage erupted on social media.

One critic posted a picture of the lawmaker who proposed the makeup room, Ruth Calderon, with horribly overapplied pink rouge, blue eyeshadow and orange lipstick. Another wondered whether napping cubicles, common in Japan, might be next.

"There are some things makeup can't hide," one commenter, Doron Ofek, sniffed on Ms. Calderon's Facebook page. "Have you no shame?" hissed another, Erik Eldar. A third, Rotem Ilsar, wondered whether Ms. Calderon might soon be requesting reimbursement for her beauty products, and whether she used high-end Clinique or drugstore-shelf L'Oreal.

"If you ask that the public tighten the belt," Mr. Ilsar said, referring to the pending budget, filled with tax increases and service cuts, "wouldn't it be appropriate for elected officials to act as examples and display modesty?"

It was the latest wrinkle in what are shaping up as Israel's makeup wars: in February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife were criticized for spending nearly $10,000 in public money last year on makeup artists.

(In 2006, another female lawmaker instituted a dress code for Parliament, banning flip-flops, shorts and sleeveless shirts or shirts that showed off the belly.)

A spokesman for Ms. Calderon, a 51-year-old Talmud scholar and mother of three who was elected in January as one of 27 women in the 120-member Parliament, said she would not discuss the makeup mess, only her legislative agenda. She has already proved a formidable force in the new centrist party Yesh Atid, which translates as There Is a Future. Her first Parliament speech, an unconventional 14-minute Torah lesson, became an Internet sensation, with 232,295 hits by Thursday evening on YouTube.

But Ms. Calderon told Ynet, an Israeli news Web site, that "when you're there for 12 hours and then have to appear on television, there is a need for makeup."

"The entry of women into the Knesset has brought along new needs, different from those of men," she said, adding, "It won't be theatrical makeup."

Ms. Calderon also said, "There is solidarity between women which crosses political parties." But before she could powder her nose, Miri Regev, a right-wing member of the Likud faction, had denounced the makeup room idea as "unreasonable," "ridiculous," "unnecessary," "extravagant" and "detached from reality."

"We are not here to model, and this is not a fashion show," Ms. Regev told Ynet.

Yotam Yakir, a spokesman for Parliament, said Ms. Calderon's idea was "not an official request and not a nonofficial request," but a casual suggestion made during an introductory conversation with staff members. Ms. Calderon's spokesman said she had also asked that healthy snacks like vegetables and fruits be made available alongside carbohydrate-laden cookies and bureka pastries.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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