Sex and the Holy City

Women have disappeared from advertisements in Jerusalem.

And not just the ones who are wearing Israeli weather-appropriate clothing, or who have been heavily airbrushed. Nir Hasson reports for Haaretz:

The purging of women from publicly displayed pictures in Jerusalem applies to images of females in regular dress and daily situations. Pictures of women in family settings and advertisements of women using face cream or being connected to food or fashion products are hard to come by in this city.

Hasson reports that the absence of women seems to be self-censorship by advertising agencies, and not the result of city ordinance:

For instance, a hamburger company that promoted its product around the country with a picture of happy family members choose [sic] in Jerusalem to show only images of its burgers.

The outcry over this revelation prompted a recent response by Roni Shub, entitled I am a proud and liberated ultra-Orthodox woman:

If today a woman’s face cannot appear on a billboard, tomorrow it will be Iran here, sane Israelis say worriedly… Iran is not yet here, but in the sacred public square, Sodom and Gomorrah already are. I live in the heart of Tel Aviv. Every morning I take my young son to kindergarten along a route paved in the pornographic business cards of dubious enterprises.

If these are good intentions, what is hell?

Shub, who edits a women’s supplement to the Haredi magazine Bakehila [In the Community], writes that while secular Israelis decry the exclusion of women from the public eye

I engage in exclusion all day long. I exclude socialites who chatter themselves to death; I make gaunt models who encourage eating disorders disappear; I erase paparazzi pictures of celebrities. Or viewed from another angle − there are no pictures of women in my paper.

While Shub certainly makes some valid points, I’m going to go out on a limb and say her ‘another angle’ goes too far in categorizing every woman who might appear in print as somehow representative of the porn industry.

Personally, I think Israeli advertisements featuring women provide a unique opportunity, and simply editing them out altogether would be a shame. I hope the following advertisement – which appeared in Jerusalem circa 2005 – helps demonstrate that there is room for healthy compromise, though the model might do well put on some sleeves (or a ‘frum shell‘, h/t Zvi) in Jerusalem:

That city can get cold in winter.


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