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You cannot please all of the people all of the time, especially when dealing with the religious sensibilities of the residents of Bnei Brak, a town with the nation's highest population density, little crime and some of the most zealously Orthodox Jews in the world.
That is what New-Pharm, a drugstore chain owned by Rami Shavit, discovered this weekend.
On Saturday night, dozens of Bnei Brak residents converged on the store, which opened six months ago, and demanded that it close its doors due to the negative influence the store's cosmetics and perfume departments might have on the town's young people.
"We have enough troubles - don't pour salt on our wounds," said Rabbi Yosef Meir Altman, head of the Hatam Sofer Rabbinical Court, hinting that deterioration of moral norms could lead to negative outcomes.
"Do us a favor and leave our neighborhood," said Altman.
According to a Bnei Brak haredi activist, New-Pharm is located next to several very conservative educational institutions, including the Rabbi Wolf Seminary for Girls, known for its strict adherence to modesty rules.
"People here do not want their daughters to be influenced by cosmetics and perfume," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous. "It simply is not acceptable."
The demonstrations, which were not organized by mainstream elements, came as a surprise to New-Pharm management, which had consulted with Bnei Brak Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Landau via PR firm McCann Erickson's haredi department.
"We removed condoms from the store, we do not use improper advertisements, we moved the cosmetics department to the back and we market goods that target the haredi population," said New-Pharm spokeswoman Daniella Reisenbach.
"And the vast majority of the Bnei Brak population does business with us. The demonstrations were staged by a fringe group of zealots. Only a few demonstrated and they left after a short time."
Reisenbach said that coordination with the local rabbinic authorities was carefully orchestrated and Tel Aviv-Yaffo Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau attended the store's opening. She added that all the branches of New-Pharm and the Mashbir department store chain, which is also owned by Shavit, are now closed on Shabbat.
According to haredi Web sites, the activists are associated with Rabbi Shmuel Wosner and Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, two highly influential Bnei Brak halachic authorities.
The rabbis who took part in the demonstrations included Rabbi Sariel Rosenberg, who leads the Zichron Meir community; Rabbi Shmuel Borenstein, head of the Kiryat Melech Yeshiva, and Rabbi Yehuda Silman, a judge in Rabbi Karelitz's rabbinical court.
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