An ad campaign on Jerusalem buses that features photographs of women is something of a coup for local activists who have spent more than two years fighting ultra-Orthodox pressure to keep the streets of the capital free of images of women. But vandals have defaced about a quarter of the bus ads since the campaign began last week, indicating that the battle isn’t over yet.
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Local activists are demanding that the police take action, and say they are not deterred by the expected vandalism.
“The fact that they vandalized a number of ads in the campaign is not surprising, not worrisome and doesn’t deter us,” said Marik Stern, director general of the capital’s Yerushalmim party, which has led the struggle on this issue. “Our objective is to create a precedent that will enable as many companies and organizations as possible to publicize pictures of women in the city.”
Stern said there were additional ad campaigns featuring women that are scheduled for the coming weeks.
Forty-five bus ads featuring women went up last week as part of the current ad campaign, of which at least 13 have been defaced.
Yerushalmim lawyer Aviad Hacohen has asked State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and Jerusalem police chief Yossi Pariente to take action against the vandalism.
“This phenomenon comes on the heels of additional acts of hooliganism that have been committed in Jerusalem in recent years, apparently by a gang of extremists which terrorize mainly ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods,” wrote Cohen. “I am therefore turning to you to do everything necessary in order to enforce the law, to catch the criminals and to bring them to justice, in order to ensure that the rule of law and law enforcement, as well as freedom of expression, will not be mere hollow cliches, but values that are put into practice in the capital of the State of Israel.”
The Egged bus company and Canaan Media, the advertising agency that places ads on Egged buses, had long resisted running advertisements with images of women due to concerns that the ads would be vandalized.
Some ultra-Orthodox Jews oppose the presence of such images in the public sphere — even if, as in this case, the images are not sexually provocative.
The ad campaign, which features photographs of women with the caption “Women of Jerusalem — Nice to meet you,” was launched over the Sukkot holiday that began last week, but only after the matter went to the High Court of Justice.
Egged and Canaan had said bus ads with women in them would be defaced and could lead to buses being damaged. The Yerushalmim party in the capital petitioned the High Court in 2012 to force Canaan to run bus ads containing images of women, a position for which the government has expressed support.