In recent weeks, women’s faces have been disappearing from billboards in Israel in an effort to appease social conservatives who don’t approve of women having roles outside of the home. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common occurrence in some Israeli communities. Though this isn’t the first time this has happened, the election campaign is bringing this issue to the fore once again.
Two of the New Israel Fund’s grantee organizations have been active in responding to the attempts to remove women from the public sphere. The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) sent a complaint to the Attorney General and to the city of Bnei Brak, and the Israel Women’s Network (IWN) filed an official complaint with the Central Election Committee. Previous organizing and legal advocacy has brought significant progress on this issue, including the banning of gender-segregated buses, bomb shelters, and sidewalks.
In Bnei Brak, the municipality seemingly banned an ad which included an image of Tzipi Livni. The original billboard, seen elsewhere in the country, included the images of a number of political leaders in an effort to get them to work together in a united bid against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But the billboards that went up in Bnei Brak, a predominantly Haredi town, included pictures of all the male politicians, but not of Livni, the leader of the center-left Hatnuah party.
In a separate incident, the advertising company Hutzot Zahav advised the Meretz party that billboards with the image of party leader Tamar Zandberg should not be put up at two sites near Bnei Brak’s city limits. Meretz decided that, rather than agreeing to use ads without Zandberg’s face, they would not put them up in those locations. Following the incident, Meretz threatened to sue the municipality and the advertising firm.