The Exclusion of People |

Israeli Bus Company Won't Feature Any Men or Women in Jerusalem Ads to Avoid ultra-Orthodox Objections

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

In order to avoid any possibility of featuring women in ads and angering the ultra-Orthodox, the Egged bus company and the Canaan Media advertising company have decided to stop using any photos of people in Jerusalem bus ads.

The decision appears to have been confirmed according to correspondence between Canaan Media and the lawyer representing the Yerushalmim Movement in an appeal to the Supreme Court to use female images in an ad campaign.

Despite Canaan Media's announcement two weeks ago of the launch of the Yerushalmim campaign, the ads have not been put on buses due to a dispute over the length of sleeves on women depicted in the posters.

The appeal was filed eight months ago by Yerushalmim, which is headed by Rabbi Uri Ayalon and seeks to promote pluralism in the capital.  It sought to require Egged and Canaan Media to display its ad campaign featuring photos of women and the slogans “Jerusalem women, pleased to meet you,” and “Because Jerusalem belongs to all of us.”

Two months ago, the state informed the court that it supported the appeal and was opposed to censorship against women.  Following the statement by the state, Canaan Media said that the campaign would begin, and even prepared a press release featuring images of women used in the ads.

Shortly after making the announcement, Canaan Media said it was to delay the posting of the ads so that the sleeves of the women could be lengthened.

 “In negotiations with them, they wouldn't agree to put up photos of women in tank tops, so we said 'OK, put them in T-shirts,' because we wanted to go ahead with the campaign,” Ayalon said.  “Then they wanted to lengthen the sleeves to the elbow.  We could not agree to that.”

In subsequent correspondence, Canaan Media said that its agreement with Yerushalmim had expired, and in any case it and Egged had decided not to use human images, both of men and of women, in bus advertising.

And indeed, in a letter written in late July to the Canaan Media CEO, Egged marketing manager Eyal Yehiel said: “Jerusalem-area advertising will be only on the rear of buses, there will be no advertising on buses' side panels.  In the Jerusalem area there will be no human images at all, though in other parts of the country it will be possible to use such images."

Canaan Media said that due to the appeal and the fear that photos of women would prompt vandalism of the buses, the company was forced to cut back advertising on Egged buses.

According to correspondence between Canaan Media and Yerushalmim's attorney Dr. Aviad Hacohen, the dean of the Sha'arei Mishpat College in Hod Hasharon, it was made clear that even if the pressure is successful and the ads would be posted, the campaign will be the last to use images of people in general and women in particular on Jerusalem buses.

"In order to avoid advertising photos of women, Egged and Canaan are ready to issue a harsh blow to the freedom of speech and the principle of equality and avoid featuring any people on bus ads," Avid Hacohen said. "In light of the harsh blow to their legal rights, the petitioners will consider their future steps in order to put a stop to this humiliating policy that harms human dignity and opposes basic Jewish and democratic values."

Canaan Media said in response: “In light of the position of the Transportation Ministry’s position on the use of women in Jerusalem advertising, in late July Egged decided to cut back on bus advertising in Jerusalem, which among other things, included cessation of the use of human images (men, women and children), in order to avoid all discrimination and avoid anticipated damage to its buses.  Despite this, we asked Egged to respond to the request of two advertisers who had planned to start campaigns in early August – the Botanical Gardens and Yerushalmim, and to delay implementation of its new policy for several days.  Egged agreed.

“To our regret, the Yerushalmim organization did not authorize the campaign, despite our frequent reminders during the allotted time period.  Instead of this, they preferred to create a provocation and divert its battle from the inclusion of women in advertising to the way women in ads are clothed,” the Canaan Media statement said.

Ron Retner, spokesperson for Egged, responded to the decision. “The agreement displays no discrimination against men or women. Canaan’s concession is set to end in October 2013. Until then, our legal advisers suggested we forge a new arrangement with Canaan. [For the time remaining] The need for a new arrangement arose from the real and pertinent danger to which the public and bus drivers in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are exposed, as well as our desire not to violate a Supreme Court decision against discrimination. Therefore it was decided that advertisements will only featured on the back of buses, and without any people, in order to prevent unnecessary arguments and rifts,” said Retner.

 “A bus’ purpose is to transport passengers, not to be a platform for outrageous and defiant advertisements. At the end of the concession, we will reconsider using city buses as a platform for advertisements.”

A simulated image of the proposed bus ad. 'Jerusalem women, it's nice to meet you, because Jerusalem belongs to all of us.'