Jerusalem Women Challenge ultra-Orthodox Ban on 'Immodest' Posters

A group that calls itself Yerushalmim ('Jerusalemites') and focuses on issues of pluralism is behind the initiative.

On Tuesday, six women met in Jerusalem to be photographed so their pictures can be hung from balconies throughout the city, beginning Wednesday, to counteract what appears to be the attempt to keep women out of advertising in the capital.

A group that calls itself Yerushalmim ("Jerusalemites" ) and focuses on issues of pluralism is behind the initiative.

Rabbi Uri Ayalon - Emil Salman - 02112011
Emil Salman

One example of women disappearing from billboards in Jerusalem is in the winter campaign of clothing outlet Honigman: Whereas model Sandy Bar appears wearing a wool knit outfit in ads elsewhere in the country, in the Jerusalem ads all that remains is her arm and purse. Another instance is an ad for the organization that encourages organ donation that appears in busses. A mosaic-like representation of people are shown holding donor cards - all men.

"The idea is to return the city space to its natural state and turn the appearance of women into something boring, that no one notices," one of the originators of the idea, Rabbi Uri Ayalon, a Conservative rabbi who created a Facebook page called "uncensored," through which the women signed up to be photographed.

The six volunteers met at the Jerusalem home of activist Shira Katz-Winkler. One of them, Idit Karni, says: "I am not for cheap exploitation of a woman's body, but a minority can't take over the city and cause women and girls to disappear. I have four daughters, and I don't intend to leave them a city that has lost its sanity."

Another of the volunteers, Tzafira Stern-Asal who is the director of a dance school, says she has had personal experience with the difficulty of putting women in advertising in the capital when trying to advertise her school. "I finally had to limit myself to a shoe or some sort of fluttering material, which certainly reduces the attraction of the ad," she says.

In the first phase of the project, 100 posters of the women will be hung throughout the city, focusing on the downtown area.

The women believe the problem lies with advertisers, who self-censor out of fear of the ultra-Orthodox. "Now we'll see the skies won't fall. I don't say it will pass quietly, but people will breathe easier when they see pictures of women returning to billboards."

קראו כתבה זאת בעברית: נשות ירושלים מחזירות עצמן לשלטי החוצות