Cnaan Advertising, the company that places advertisements on Egged buses in Jerusalem, has refused to carry ads for activists campaigning in support of women's equality.
The company demanded a NIS 50,000 guarantee from Yerushalmim ("Jerusalemites"), the movement that is running the campaign, to cover any possible vandalism of the buses by Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) extremists.
Yerushalmim posted women's images on billboards all over the city about six weeks ago as part of its campaign against women's exclusion from the public square in Jerusalem. Two weeks ago, the movement decided to launch an ad campaign on buses, under the slogan "Introducing Jerusalem women."
The ads all show fully-dressed women. But Cnaan, which owns the franchise for bus advertising in Jerusalem, nevertheless refused.
The company has refused to place ads featuring women on buses for several years, claiming they are not worth its while because Haredim vandalize the buses.
In 2008, the Central Elections Committee ordered Cnaan to run bus ads featuring Yerushalmim head Rachel Azaria during her successful run for a seat on the city council. But since then, women have hardly appeared on Jerusalem buses.
Yerushalmim attorney Aviad Hacohen, dean of the Sha'arei Mishpat Academic College, warned Cnaan, Egged and the Transportation Ministry that if necessary, the movement would resort to legal measures to force the company to run the campaign.
Hacohen wrote that by refusing to run the ads, the company is "rewarding a negligible minority that seeks to impose its will on the general population by violence, while excluding women's pictures, and perhaps women themselves, from Jerusalem's public square."
Cnaan's attorney, Ido Frishta, replied that the company cannot run bus ads with women's images, because they lead to vandalism. Cnaan suggested the movement either make do with advertising on billboards or post a NIS 50,000 guarantee to cover any vandalism damages.
But Yerushalmim rejected Cnaan's proposal. "Their proposal is offensive," said Rabbi Uri Ayalon, one of the activists. "This is a state of law and there's a police force. I should post a personal guarantee instead of the company relying on the police to deal with law breakers?"
He also said the fear of vandalism is exaggerated. "All parties find it convenient to play up the risk and not even try to advertise. By so doing, they reward violence."
Mark Stern, another campaign activist, agreed. "This is a surrender to the Haredi extremists' thuggery, which the police, Egged and the Transportation Ministry are failing to handle," he said.