L'Chaim

Jewish World Review Jan. 31, 2003/ 28 Shevat 5763

Is the world ready for the first Sabbath-observant supermodel?


By Cassandra Jardine


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | LONDON Havi Mond's journey to work would defeat most veterans of Connex or the M25. She wakes up in Tzefas (Safed), northern Israel, travels for two hours to Tel Aviv, waits for three hours to go through security, flies to London, takes the train down to Brighton, where her grandparents live, and then goes to work as a model.

"Sometimes, when there is a red alert, it takes even longer, as security has to go through every bag, but I am used to it," she says.

She started making these epic journeys last August, imagining that, as a little-known model, she would not be much in demand. Within a week, she had landed her first shoot for Vogue -- earning only 50, their standard fee -- and she was launched. Already, she is widely talked of as the girl most likely to revive the supermodel phenomenon, and the nightmarish trip has turned into a fortnightly, sometimes weekly, routine.

By now, most girls would have thrown in their El Al boarding pass and settled in London, but Havi is in no rush. "I am a very home child," she says, sounding deceptively young for her 19 years. "I love living with my mummy and daddy, I love cooking and cleaning. So I am happy to travel, though sometimes it is a little boring."

Havi is a classic beauty with perfect skin and an other-worldly tranquility. A host of magazines have already used her and, next month, she will begin advertising the French Connection summer collection. Calvin Klein wants to see her, as do scores of other top names.

She's young, she's fresh --- and she is an Israeli whose Orthodox Judaism makes her refuse work on Fridays and Saturdays, avoid non-kosher catering and turn down jobs that require her to wear anything that she, or her parents Peter and Pamela, consider "provocative." Cramping for a model's style, one might think, but apparently not. "It all adds to the intrigue," says Alisa Marks, French Connection's creative director.

We meet in the decadently ornate surroundings of Sketch, the latest wildly expensive London salon de the. Havi is not one of those models whose good looks you could miss if she were not dolled up and painted. She is dressed in combat trousers and a parka, but even the outer garb of a brussel sprout doesn't mask her beauty. Kate Winslet's recent photographic touch-up and slim-down made it seem as if anyone could be a model now, but Havi -- 5 feet 9 inches, eight stone and perfectly proportioned -- has a considerable head start.

Some say she looks like Cindy Crawford, others say Claudia Schiffer; there's a touch, too, of Julia Roberts when she gives one of her wide smiles. Throw in some olive skin and Shakira/Jennifer Lopez-style long, streaked hair and Havi's name alone may soon be enough to sell clothes or perfume.

PROUDLY PATRIOTIC AND RELIGIOUS

But, to me, the most amazing thing about her appearance is that she is dressed like a soldier --- right down to an ammunition bag. Surely a girl who has just completed her national service, who commutes between London and the intifada, whose every lipstick is searched when she leaves home, must have had enough of military khaki?

"Oh, but it is the fashion here, you could look at it as just the color green," she says. Then she turns on her charm, opens her pale eyes wide, gives an enormous smile and adds: "Or you could look at it as the good stuff of the army --- and be proud."

Havi may dress like a British teenager but in spirit she is a world away, the product of an upbringing on the front line. Cynicism and worldly cool are not for her; patriotism is. Although she can resist the fancy "blue/green tea" and minute but pricey chocolate cake on offer, she cannot pass up an opportunity to act as an ambassador for her nation.

"People get a funny impression of Israel from the television," she says. "They think you don't go out, you don't even walk in the street because people can just blow themselves up. It is not really like that. You have to keep going. We don't sit around not doing things, just crying."

Havi's English is charmingly accented with guttural "h"s and elongated vowels. Her parents, who emigrated to Israel from Britain in their youth, have always spoken English to their four children, but Hebrew is Havi's first language and her home is in the old, Orthodox sector of a town that was threatened by Scud missiles during the Gulf war.

"When I was a child, we often had to go to a room and put on a gas mask," she says. "But it is not so bad now. Or it was not so bad but, a month ago, a bus was bombed near my home. Most of those killed were soldiers but I knew one of the women who died. In Israel, we are like a big family, so you try to be sensitive, to help as much as you can and be there for people. Their pain is your pain.

"I don't lie awake at night worrying, but each time something happens, each time there is a threat, it does something to you. Everyone in Israel is very aware of security. Each time you get on a bus, you look around, you check, you have to be aware."

London must be delightfully relaxing for her by comparison? Apparently not. "We don't have muggers in Israel," she notes. "And what I find very strange is that in my country, there are security and army people everywhere, but here, the only time I see guards is inside fashion shops. Sometimes they have them outside, too."

Havi sees a lot of fashion shops. For all her quiet spirituality, she is a girly girl who could shop until she drops. "Sometimes, I think it is almost a sickness," she says, with a giggle. In Israel, she haunts the boutiques of Netanya with her grandmother; in London, she traipses around with her aunt, who is in the fashion business.

How did she cope with national service? "I am a religious girl," she explains, "and, until a year ago, religious girls did not do military service - there were problems with the clothes, the boys. So I taught hyperactive children and those from poor neighborhoods and I helped Ethiopians who had just arrived in Israel to learn Hebrew."

Many young people of other nationalities do all they can to wriggle their way out of national service, but Havi earnestly defends her soft option. "I cannot see myself living in tents and doing all that running around," she admits. "But national service is just as important to the government." Naturally, her brother and her boyfriend both served their country in the army for three years and she expresses no resentment at having had to put a potentially lucrative modeling career on hold.

This unswerving loyalty to her country leads her to avoid political discussions, but she must have met people in Britain who have expressed sympathy for the Palestinians. "No, never," she says, bewildered at the thought.

Havi was spotted, aged 16, by Sarah Leon, a booker for the model agency Select. But there was no question of her starting a career immediately, even though her walls were plastered with pictures of Cindy Crawford, her role model. She had had modeling offers in Israel and turned them down - "there, the industry has the image of using the girls", she says.

Her parents, a social worker and a drama therapist, were not tempted by Select's talk of the international big time, either. They wanted their daughter to finish school, where she got marks in the nineties for her final exams, and do her national service before thinking about a career.

"I didn't keep mentioning it to my mummy and my daddy because I knew they did not like the idea," says Havi. It was only when Select flew her and her mother to London, showed them what a family-minded agency they were, and promised never to ask her to do work that went against her principles, that the Monds agreed.

So far, Havi has had a chaperone on most jobs but soon, she will have to manage on her own. Her childhood, so sheltered in some ways, so tough in others, might not seem to equip her for the bitching, the rejections, the transitoriness of many modeling careers, but she is not worried.

"I like the idea of being a supermodel," she says. "It would be fun to be famous, so long as I didn't lose my private life. And I like modeling: the clothes, the make-up and having my hair done. There are many places I want to see -- Switzerland, France, Brazil -- and I would like to save some money and buy a flat so that, when I am a student, I don't have to work. But I won't be disappointed if it doesn't work out.

"I used to want to be a lawyer but now, I want to study marketing. I would like to be a publicity girl. Many models work only in the holidays and I could do that, too. Or, if I am working all the time, I could get a flat in London. My parents would let me if I really wanted to. With my boyfriend? Now, that might be more difficult."

In the meantime, she will carry on living at home, buy a book on marketing to pass the endless hours in airports, and continue to demonstrate to the outside world that Israelis can be beautiful and resilient, without being aggressive.

As she says: "Every person deals with the situation in a different way, but we cannot stop living our lives."


Cassandra Jardine is a columnist for The Telegraph of London. Comment by clicking here.


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