Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gender segregation on rise in Israel

In this Monday, Nov. 7, 2011 photo, an Ultra Orthodox Jewish man is reflected on a mirror displayed next to another mirror and a painting, in Jerusalem. Images of women have vanished from the streets of Israel's capital. Women have been shunted onto separate sidewalks. Buses and health clinics have been gender-segregated, and the military has considered reassigning female combat soldiers because religious men don't want to serve with them. This is the new reality in 21st-century Israel, where ultra-Orthodox rabbis are trying to contain the encroachment of secular values on their cloistered society through a fierce backlash against the mixing of the sexes in public. (AP Photos/Sebastian Scheiner)

Gender segregation on rise in Israel

For years, advertisers have been covering up female models on billboards in Jerusalem and other communities with large ultra-Orthodox populations. Ultra-Orthodox have defaced such ads and vendors faced ultra-Orthodox boycotts of companies whose mores they deplore.

Recently, the voluntary censorship has gone beyond the scantily clad: Women are either totally absent from billboards, or, as with one clothing company's ads, only hinted at by a photo of a back, an arm and a purse.

Over the summer, Jerusalem inaugurated a long-awaited light rail with a major outdoor advertising campaign. The rail line is touted as a marvel of 21st-century technology, but there are no women's faces on any of the billboards affixed to its sides.

Advertisers acknowledge ultra-Orthodox pressure.

A private radio station went so far as to ban broadcast of songs by female vocalists and interviews with women.

Ohad Gibli, deputy director of marketing for the Canaan advertising agency, confirmed Monday that his company advised a transplant organization to drop pictures of women in their campaigns in Jerusalem and the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak for fear of a violent backlash.

"We have learned that an ad campaign in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak that includes pictures of women will remain up for hours at best, and in other cases, will lead to the vandalization and torching of buses," he told Army Radio.

Barkat told reporters recently that "It's illegal to forbid" advertising women. But "in Jerusalem, you've got to use common sense if you want to advertise something. It's a special city, it's a holy city with sensitivities for Muslims, for Christians, for ultra-Orthodox."

If women are being figuratively erased from the city's advertising landscape, then there are also attempts afoot by the devout to muzzle them.

In September, nine religious soldiers walked out of a military event because women were singing — an act that extremely devout Jews claim conjures up lustful thoughts...READ MORE

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