We all know that it’s impolite to stare at strangers. But nearly everyone on the Jerusalem Light Rail did just that on January 13, when some 50 people boarded the tramway and proceeded to take off their trousers.
It was the second time the “No Pants Subway Ride” event was staged in Jerusalem, and organizer Boaz Balachsan said he was very happy with the outcome.
“It was great; the number of participants doubled from last year, and people really got into it,” Balachsan tells ISRAEL21c. “People loved it. We got a lot of positive feedback. A lot of people laughed.”
The silly global event started en masse in New York in 2002. The idea came about after a city resident forgot to put on trousers and boarded the subway in his underwear on January 10, 1986. Although mortified at first, he found that reactions were so positive that he and some friends copied his slipup the following year until it eventually snowballed into an international event.
No Pants Day, aka No Pants Subway Ride, is now celebrated every year on or around January 10, and again on the first Friday of May (thanks to a difference of opinion amongst organizers). Only cities with a tram or subway system can participate.
Balachsan, a Jerusalem-based artist, had taken part in the foolery in European cities and was waiting for the Jerusalem Light Rail to be finished in order to launch an Israeli version.
His inaugural baring of legs last year was so well received that this year he and some friends set up a group called Improv Israel to organize “similar events.”
No Pants Day is just one of the “pranks and other spontaneous events to break the routine that we do in Jerusalem. We do lots of events,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
“People are always trying to put Jerusalem in a box of being a city with a very religious vibe where nothing happens. But there are tons of students in the city center and there are a lot of really awesome people here. Even members of the religious communities accept our pranks. We’re not doing something provocative; it’s a joke.”
Balachsan sent an invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other politicians to join the fun. “It was mostly students taking part and some tourists who happened to be here,” he says. “Actually, we had a small group from the Ukraine who were sad that they were going to miss No Pants Day at home and then were really happy to hear we were organizing an event in Jerusalem.”
As for what to wear, Balachsan says, “last year we wore underwear with cartoon characters but this year we just wore what there was. Next year, we’ll surprise you.”