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A salesman at Ferster Quality Hats in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood Mea Shearim suggests rabbit felt hats made in Hungary for around $200. Twice the price of made-in-China, but he says they last much longer. (NPR)

What It Costs To Cover Your Noggin In Jerusalem

Dec 28, 2013

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Yarmulkes are for sale in the $5 range in the ultra-orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim. A selection of scarves for Muslim women that range from $4 to $14 are for sale at a shop just off East Jerusalem's famous shopping street, Salhadin. Palestinian Aya Sharaf texts a friend about a perfect $20 headscarf for sale just off the storied Saleh-ad Din Street in East Jerusalem. Sharaf loves new headscarves and buys them all the time. Jewish boys inspect the yarmulke collection -- from $5 to $15 -- at a shop in Jerusalem. A Palestinian shepherd near Beit Fajar in the West Bank wears the real deal. Tourist versions of this traditional Arab male headcovering start around $10. But remember to bargain. Headscarves in the $10-20 range worn by religious Jewish women are for sale in the ultra-orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim.

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Just how far does a dollar go? We'll try to answer that question as part of an occasional series on what things cost around the world. In this installment, NPR's Emily Harris looks at the price of headwear in Jerusalem.

In Israel and the Palestinian territories, headgear is big business. How much does it cost to cover up for different religions, traditions and fashions?

Orthodox and religious Jews cover their heads to show respect toward God. A basic circular yarmulke a few inches across costs as little as $5 in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim.

Hasidic men spend several hundred dollars on their felt hats of old European lineage. Though all hats are black, the peak and cut varies by sect. Some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men wear large, round fur hats for Shabbat and special occasions, spending as much as several thousand dollars for a high-quality, handmade "crown."

For religious and Orthodox Jewish women, dictates of modesty can mean a wig after marriage. The more natural-looking, the more expensive. Otherwise, all kinds of hats, caps and scarves are available, at all kinds of prices.

Many Palestinian women also cover their hair for religious or traditional reasons, usually with colorful scarves. On Salah-ad-Din Street in the heart of East Jerusalem, five bucks gets a polyblend made in China. Up the scale, a Turkish wool weave. Silk will do, too.

Older Palestinian men often wear a keffiyeh, a head covering with desert origins and, depending on the pattern, potent political symbolism. These are hawked to tourists starting at around $10. How much you bargain dictates how much you pay.

And then there are hats to let Israelis worship the sun but not burn their faces. Available year round at Israel's seaside resorts (Dead, Red, Galilee and Mediterranean), they are of mostly middling quality with prices to match.

Here are some of the options:

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