Haredi media exclude photo of female IDF soldier killed on Egyptian border

Sgt. Lia Ben-Nun was one of three IDF soldiers killed in a terror attack on the Egyptian border.

 Sgt. Lia Ben-Nun who was killed on the Egyptian border. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Sgt. Lia Ben-Nun who was killed on the Egyptian border.

Several haredi news outlets covering the killing of three IDF soldiers on the Egyptian border refused to publish the face of one of the victims, a female soldier named Sgt. Lia Ben-Nun.

One such outlet that didn't publish her face was Behaderey Haredim, which only published the images of the other two soldiers, St.-Sgt. Uri Itzhak Ilouz and St.-Sgt. Ohad Dahan.

Another outlet that didn't include Ben-Nun's face is the Jewish Daily News (JDN), which included only pictures of Dahan and Ilouz alongside a memorial candle. 

Both articles mentioned Ben-Nun by name and included her as one of the victims, but shared no images of how she looked.

However, Hamodia, one of the largest haredi news outlets, in addition to not sharing a picture of Ben-Nun, did not even mention the fact that a woman had been killed in the attack at all. Rather, it instead showed pictures of both men who were killed alongside a picture of the Egyptian border fence.

A father shows his son how to pull a woman's face off an anti-abortion organization's bus ad (credit: ISRAEL COHEN ON TWITTER)
A father shows his son how to pull a woman's face off an anti-abortion organization's bus ad (credit: ISRAEL COHEN ON TWITTER)

Erasure of women in haredi media

The practice of excluding images of women from haredi media outlets is nothing new and has grown in prominence in recent years. However, it has caused some scandals in the past.

In 2021, haredi outlets like Behaderey Haredim came under fire for an article about the inauguration of the new government, as the article literally obscured the images of all female ministers in the new cabinet.

Other notable examples in recent years include when the Israeli haredi publication Hamevaser edited an image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 and when Mishpacha magazine faced intense backlash for publishing a photo of Hillary Clinton’s silhouette in 2016.

This tendency to erase pictures of women in haredi culture has also spread outside the media and has resulted in the defacement and vandalization of pictures of women throughout Israel.

However, it should be noted that haredi media are not a monolith and there are outliers. In particular, haredi news outlet Kikar HaShabbat did share a picture of Ben-Nun and continues to publish images of women.

Israeli politicians criticize haredi media coverage of the Egyptian border attack

Several Israeli lawmakers took haredi news outlets to task for not sharing pictures of Ben-Nun in their articles.

“Lia was good enough to pay with her life to protect them, to ensure they can sleep well at night– but God forbid they should pay her last respects and show her picture like those of the other two soldiers. Lia was good enough to serve in a place where their ultra-Orthodox peers are exempt from service; exempt from the defense of the state; exempt from playing their part,” Labor head Merav Michaeli in the days following the attack.

“In a place where the editors and reporters and owners of the ultra-Orthodox media websites sleep soundly at night, their sons and daughters are not exposed to this mortal danger.

“The coalition’s disgusting poison machine is not ashamed to insult [the soldiers] and their memory. Shame on the media and shame on the country,” she said.

“This, friends, is the heart of our democratic struggle. Discrimination, objectification, and the erasure of women is not a minor part of the struggle against the regime coup, but an essential part at its heart,” she claimed.

Yisrael Beytenu chairman MK Avigdor Liberman also criticized the coverage.

“The attempt to erase the picture of a woman in the haredi media... are completely unreasonable,” he said. “I would expect the heads of Shas [and] United Torah Judaism... to demand a clear and public apology. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear this from any of them.”

Aaron Reich and Eliav Breuer contributed to this report.