A nun, a Charedi housewife and a U.N. official walk into a pole-dancing studio…

[Deborah Danan | Jewish Journal]

No, that’s not the beginning of a joke with a Middle Eastern twist, it’s just a random Monday at JPole, an exercise studio in Jerusalem owned by —  and the plot thickens — a religious settler.

Originally from Bet El, a Jewish community a stone’s throw from Ramallah, Ayelet Finkelstein opened her studio in the city center six years ago with strong ideals and a weak business plan. “I’m not a business person at all,” Finkelstein admitted. “I just wanted women to feel good about themselves.”

“In here, you strip your clothes and your preconceived notions.”

— Ayelet Finkelstein

From that perspective, at least, the studio flourished. Women suffering from anorexia joined those battling obesity and with each spin of the pole their confidence bloomed.

But maintaining 1,600-square-feet of prime real estate in the Holy City was no easy task, and in August Finkelstein was forced to close her studio.

“You get to the point where you gave your soul and your heart and then you have nothing left on your plate to give,” she said.

But after the liens, the municipal fines, and the heart-gripping anxiety attacks, that’s when the yeshua — or divine redemption — steps in, she said. In her case, it came in the form of a loyal student who helped Finkelstein reopen her studio at an existing gym, saving her overhead costs.

Finkelstein views pole dancing as a form of exercise like any other but she doesn’t dismiss the sexy side to it. She runs the gamut of pole classes — from a focus on the sport’s athletic, acrobatic side to classes that combine the pole with contemporary dance.

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