Sisterhood Blog

Women Disappearing from Jerusalem Ads

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
courtesy Uri Ayalon
Rabbi Uri Ayalon of Yerushalmim

As I recently reported, Jerusalem City Councilmember Rachel Azaria lost her job and membership in the governing coalition for having gone to the High Court of Justice to oppose gender segregation in that city and to protect the equal rights of women.

An online petition has begun circulating to pressure Mayor Nir Barkat into giving Azaria back her city council responsibilities overseeing early childhood programs and local councils administration.

But the story is not just about what has happened to Azaria. “We are dealing with all kinds of exclusion of women in the public sphere in Jerusalem,” Conservative Rabbi Uri Ayalon told The Sisterhood. Ayalon, the founder and leader of Kehilat (Congregation) Yotzer Or, is on the board of Yerushalmim (Jerusalemites), a non-profit civic organization working to build an inclusive, pluralistic city. He and others in the organization have been tracking what they call the “disappearance of women from public life” over the past couple of years.

In mid-October Yerushalmim launched a campaign called “Uncensored: Fighting Against the Exclusion of Women From the Public Arena.” It has already garnered more than 1,000 supporters (including some Knesset members, prominent intellectuals and leaders of the J14 social justice movement) on its Facebook page, and Ayalon and its other leaders are now planning the campaign’s next steps. While the campaign fights the types of exclusion that have been in the news lately, like Haredi actions to ban women from singing in public, separate women from men on the city sidewalks, and force women to sit at the back of the bus, it also tackles advertising in Jerusalem.

Haaretz reported recently that there is a glaring lack of women on billboards and in local Jerusalem newspaper and magazine ads.

“Believe me, this is real,” said Ayalon. “I am out there every day counting the dwindling number of women seen in advertisements.” He is not talking about “women in bikinis on cars,” which Ayalon stresses that he and Yerushalmim are, like the Haredim, opposed to. Rather, he is talking about the complete absence of respectably dressed women in ads in which they used to appear in Jerusalem — and still do in other parts of the country. Suddenly there are a whole lot of images of men selling food, furniture, and other home-related products. Men’s being more focused on domesticity can, of course, be a good thing — but not at the expense of women’s civil rights.

Haaretz also noted that there is suddenly a preponderance of disembodied shoe-clad feet in ads. For instance, recent posters for the big, festive Sukkot Jerusalem March– in which men and women participated - showed only a pair of men’s shoes against a backdrop of the city. The safety campaign for Jerusalem’s new light rail system features images only of men and boys, as though women and girls do not ride it or need to heed safety warnings. “Even posters for a running race for women did not have women on them,” Ayalon noted.

As far as the municipality goes, it reportedly claims that the elimination of women’s images from public space is “deluded and unfounded.”

“Uncensored” backers are convinced that private advertising companies are simply keeping women out of the picture so as not to arouse opposition and anger among the Haredim. “They are just concerned about not losing the Haredi market, so they censor themselves even before the ultra-Orthodox say anything. They see the secular population as weaker and expect us not to say anything,” Ayalon said.

But Ayalon stresses that it is a mistake for secular and pluralistic Israelis to be taught that they need to compromise in order not to hurt ultra-Orthodox sensibilities. On a Channel 2 News morning show on October 23rd, on which he appeared with Azaria, Ayalon made it clear that the non-Haredim are indeed hurt when their values are not respected. “We need to stop perpetuating the canard that we have an empty [values] wagon and that their wagon is full,” Ayalon told The Sisterhood later in the day.

“They are creating a Haredi city,” he said. “And it’s worse now under Barkat [than under former Haredi Mayor Uri Lupolianski], because he has disappointed us and not lived up to expectations.” On the Channel 2 program, he warned viewers in the rest of Israel that what is happening in Jerusalem will spread to other cities within a couple of years if it is not stopped.

So the story is far bigger than the Azaria affair. Interestingly enough, the fight to have women’s images stay within public view dates back to her campaign for office. October’s appeal to the Supreme Court was not the first time she has filed a legal case to defend women’s rights in Jerusalem. She went to court in 2008 when the company in charge of placing ads on Jerusalem’s buses refused to run a campaign poster with her picture.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jerusalem, Gender Segregation

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.