Israeli Supermarket Takes Down Sign Requiring Modest Dress

Israel Religious Action Center filed a complaint over the sign; supermarket responds that demand for modest dress for entry will be replaced with a request.

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A sign on the door of Mahsanei Hashuk's Ashdod branch reads: "Dear customers, entrance to this branch is with modest dress only! Please be strict!"
A sign on the door of Mahsanei Hashuk's Ashdod branch reads: "Dear customers, entrance to this branch is with modest dress only! Please be strict!"Credit: Israel Religious Action Center

An Israeli supermarket said it will remove a sign at one of its mehadrin (strictly kosher) branch that makes entrance conditional on "modest dress only."

The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism's Israel Religious Action Center filed a complaint with the Mahsanei Hashuk supermarket over the sign.

The supermarket said that in response to the complaint, its Ashdod branch will replace the existing sign with one that phrases the reference to modest dress as a request.

The Religious Action Center, however, claims that any kind of sign referring to modesty is illegal. The sign was noted and photographed by an employee of the center.

In another Ashdod neighborhood, where around half the population is ultra-Orthodox, a sign in a public area calls on women to dress in long, modest clothing.

A sign in an Ashdod neighborhood asks passersby to "Please wear long and modest clothing."Credit: Israel Religious Action Center

The center complained about the signs to Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri, reminding him that the municipality is responsible for signage in public places. “Even if a permit was requested for such a sign, you should have refused to grant it, given the serious undermining of women’s rights,” the center’s representatives wrote, but have yet to receive an answer.

MK Ilan Gilon of Meretz also wrote to Lasri and said that he hadn’t gotten a response.

In its letter to Mahsanei Hashuk, the Religious Action Center's attorney Ori Narov wrote that “making entrance conditional on modest dress constitutes illegal discrimination.”

On Monday, attorney Alicia Maimoni, Mahsanei Hashuk’s legal adviser, replied, saying that the Ashdod branch had been instructed to remove the sign.

“We’re talking about a mehadrin branch visited mostly by a religious and Haredi population, and because of a number of exceptionally debasing and demeaning occurrences, for reasons that aren’t necessarily religious, the sign was hung,” she wrote.

She added, however, that “the wording of the sign is not proper and as a result an order was issued to remove it, and it will be removed in the coming days.”

Maimoni wrote that although the center requested that no sign relating to modesty be hung in any branch of the chain, this particular branch plans to hang a different sign “to provide a response to the existing need stemming from the substance and character of a mehadrin branch.” The new sign, she said, “will not in any way condition entrance on any specific kind of dress, but will politely ask our branch customers to dress properly.”

To defend this stance, Maimoni quoted Section D of the law forbidding discrimination in products, services, entrance to places of entertainment or public places, which states, “Discrimination is not present under this section when the issue is required by the character or nature of the product, public service or public place.”

The Religious Action Center rejected this argument, saying the law does not refer to this situation.

Neither Mahsanei Hashuk’s offices nor the Ashdod municipality responded to queries.

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