Violence against Egged buses in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem
may increase if an activist group is successful in its campaign to include
photos of women in ads plastered on the vehicles.
Jerusalem and Bnei Brak
are the only two places in the country where women are not featured on bus
advertising, according to Cnaan, the marketing company that handles Egged
advertising across the country.
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The haredi communities in both these
places have seriously damaged buses with photos of women on them, including
throwing rocks, dousing the exterior of the bus with paint and, in an extreme
example, setting an empty bus on fire.
Yerushalmim, a political group
whose aim is to promote pluralism and equal rights for women, is trying to
challenge this rule with an advertising campaign called “Women of Jerusalem,
Nice to Meet You.”
The group purchased advertising space on Egged buses
and photographed women from a variety of different backgrounds and ages wearing
modest clothes, with the goal of “reclaiming the public sphere,” said
Yerushalmim community organizer Marik Shtern.
Cnaan, a private company,
initially refused the advertisements on buses and suggested the group buy
advertising space on city bridges instead.
When Yerushalmim charged that
the company was discriminating against women and threatened court action, Cnaan
agreed to allow the advertisements on buses, with the condition that the group
pay a NIS 50,000 deposit against damages incurred as a result of the
advertisements featuring women.
“Buses are the last place in Jerusalem,
and even the whole country, that are refusing [to use advertisements featuring
women],” said Shtern. “It’s part of the public sphere, and we’re not ready for
it to be a censored place.”
Allowing only male models on buses, Shtern
argued, “is a gift to the haredim for extremism… this is the way that they’re
controlling the public.”
A month-and-a-half ago, Yerushalmim successfully
mounted a campaign to have more women featured on posters and advertisements
around the city by purchasing spots on municipality community boards featuring
Shtern said they wanted to focus specifically on buses with this
But Cnaan countered that the refusal stemmed from an economic
desire to protect their bottom line rather than an attempt to censor
“We’re a private company, a business, and we’re trying to make
money,” said Ohad Givli, the national vice president of marketing for Cnaan. “We
stop the moment that we see situations that will cause us financial damage. It’s
not against them, because in every other place Cnaan puts up advertisements with
Givli said damage against the buses ranged from thousands of
shekels for replacing a window broken by a rock or repainting a bus that had
paint thrown at it, to hundreds of thousands of shekels for the bus that was
burned four years ago because it depicted an advertisement of a mother with her
Cnaan has also refused to run other campaigns that they deemed would
be offensive to certain populations.
Last year, Cnaan refused an
advertising campaign from the Ir Amim organization about the lack of public
transportation in east Jerusalem. This is the first time that the company has
suggested that a client give them a deposit against damages incurred by the
“I need to pay for the fact that there’s haredi
violence?” asked Shtern. “If there’s violence, the police needs to take care of
it. But they can’t not have pictures because of the possibility of vandalism,”
Shtern said the group was looking into taking the company to
court over their insistence on the deposit.
On Friday, a large march
protesting the discrimination against women is planned in Jerusalem under the
banner of “Women Demand Social Justice.”
“Our government is dealing with
a nuclear threat from Iran, and they will have to start dealing with the threat
from within Israel, in order that we don’t find ourselves in the same situation
as the women in Iran,” said march organizer Liran Shalish, a student at
Eight hundred people have already confirmed their
participation on Facebook.