Passover Cleaning: Erasing Women From Billboards in Jerusalem

Religious and secular Jerusalemites are challenging the ultra-Orthodox ban on 'immodest’ posters

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Where are the women? One of the  Shufersal supermarket chain's billboards in Jerusalem this week.
Where are the women? One of the Shufersal supermarket chain's billboards in Jerusalem this week.Credit: Efrat Ben Tzur, Room404.net
Shahar Ilan
Shahar Ilan

It’s important for Israelis to take this story into account when they decide where to do their Passover shopping. Manufacturers of laundry detergent, dishwashers and food often address women in ads − because the men are apparently too busy hunting mammoths to participate in the shopping and cleaning chores.

That’s why it was surprising to see the billboards of the Supersol supermarket chain exposed by the Room 404 blog, in which Passover shopping ads feature men only, apparently figures of a father and his sons.

There is something strange about this quasi-feminist campaign: It is being used only in Jerusalem. Billboards of the same campaign could be seen all over Israel, but they also showed a woman and girl as part of the family. The same women were omitted in the Jerusalem campaign, since many advertisers prefer to remove pictures of women from advertisements in order not to “offend the religious community.” Does that mean that Shufersal decided that it can manage even without female customers?

The repeated exclusion of women in Israel’s capital has turned into a stormy discussion on the chain’s Facebook page. “If someone in the Shufersal management or the office of its public relations firm Rani Rahav thinks that the story of excluding women can end with ‘no comment,’ he is living in a fantasy world and doesn’t understand how social networks work,” wrote Shahar Ilan, who writes the blog Mashgiah Kashrut (Kashrut Supervisor). “I doubt that there is a single Haredi man in Jerusalem who wouldn’t shop in your stores because of a picture of a family celebrating.”

In response, Shufersal answered him on Facebook: “Thank you for the posting and we apologize for your feelings. The Shufersal chain respects all its customers and faithfully serves everyone in Israel, without regard to religion, race and gender, and in an effort to consider the varied needs of the customers. In the relevant ad there was no intention, God forbid, of offending anyone. We have taken your comment into consideration for future advertising. We wish you and all of Israel a happy Passover.”

But apparently the chain’s response did not convince the surfers, most of them religious Jerusalemites. “There are a few more days until the holiday, I think it would be very reasonable to get organized and remove the insulting ads. And I’m saying that as a religious woman,” wrote the pluralism coordinator of the New Israel Fund, Shira Ben Sasson Furstenberg.

Whereas rabbi and attorney Uri Regev, CEO of Hiddush-Freedom of Religion for Israel, wrote: “It’s a disgrace that causes one to think about the effectiveness of Haredi hooliganism, and the conclusion of the business world is that they are the only ones who really care, and therefore they are the only ones to whom attention should be paid.”

And Shira Katz Winkler of the Yerushalmim (Jerusalemites) movement (a mixed movement of secular and religious people) added: “Replace the ads − and as soon as possible!”

Meanwhile outside Jerusalem, women and girls star in the Shufersal supermarket chain's billboards.Credit: Efrat Ben Tzur, Room404.net

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