Lingerie wars

An unusual ad campaign becomes a cause celebre in Ra'anana and beyond.

lingerie poster 248 courtesy (photo credit: Courtesy)
lingerie poster 248 courtesy
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Driving down the streets of Ra'anana a couple of weeks ago, motorists noticed large posters of a scantily-clad young woman, promoting a local lingerie store called Hope. Only problem was, on most of the posters, the woman was almost completely obscured by heavy black lines that had been drawn to block out almost everything except the name of the company. But who had done this? The first inclination, of course, was to assume that members of the religious community had objected to the immodest pictures and had taken matters into their own hands. You could almost picture these intrepid members of the modesty patrol, surreptitiously sneaking around at night, paint brush in hand, merrily masking the maiden, and so sparing the innocent and the pure from the sexy, scandalous scenes that had invaded their neighborhood. But lo and behold, it soon was learned that it was the company itself that had done the deed! Yes, the posters were created that way from the very beginning, with the model intentionally blocked out. But now the question was why. Hope's co-owner, Yafit Kavia, maintains that this was just part of a clever ad campaign to attract attention. "It's different, it's unusual," she told me. "We meant no offense to the religious community; in fact, as someone who grew up in a traditional home, I thought it would be totally inappropriate to put up posters of women in their underwear!" But local residents were not so sure. More than one irate citizen told me, "I'm absolutely certain that the perpetrators of this campaign knew full well that the secular residents would blame the religious for defacing the posters; the religious would then deny it, and the ensuing war of words would keep everyone talking about the store." COMING ON the heels of a fear-and-smear campaign by Ra'anana's Meretz party in the last local election - which warned voters that, if elected, the religious parties would "close the streets and stores on Shabbat and force their way of life on all of us" - the Hope happening has created a furious debate in the city about the limits of good taste and "freedom of sight." There has even been a call for the mayor to publicly condemn the bizarre advertising gambit, and forcibly remove the posters from the city's streets. But the issues swirling around in this idyllic city of 80,000 are just a microcosm of what is happening throughout our entire society. It's about the great distrust between religious and secular, each of whom believes the opposite side is out to get them. Its about the blame we place - openly or subconsciously - on "the other," who, we are firmly convinced, is to blame for virtually all the ills of the nation. After all, the religious consider the secular population as second-class, don't they? The secular destroy the Jewish character of the state, they are valueless and only care about their own selfish, material pleasures, and they would gladly hand half this country over to the Palestinians on a silver platter for a phony peace. Right? As for the secular, they are just as sure that is the religious who threaten their way of life. The religious want to force Judaism's strictures down everyone's throat; they want to replace our democracy with a theocracy; they care more about some lifeless dunam of biblical land than the future of our own children. Isn't that so? And therefore, if a controversial photo was blotted out, it must have been the religious who did it! And if such posters were erected like that in the first place, it must have been a secular ploy to make the religious look like fanatical vigilantes. The preconceived notions and nonsense that afflict us are, to me, more frightening than Iran, Hamas and the water shortage put together. YES, FOLKS, we do have our problems, and we should not take them lightly. There is a legitimate debate over Jewish values, land for peace, pluralism and army service versus yeshiva study. And our situation isn't made any easier by kippa-clad demonstrators - in an obvious effort to bring honor to God and Torah - launching loaded diapers at police protecting a parking lot on Shabbat. Or by mustachioed men in bikinis riding on floats through the streets of Jerusalem in an effort to show off the joy of being a gender-bender. But the fact is, we have more in common with each other than we realize. The vast majority of our country has a genuine respect for Judaism, though we may express it in different ways. We abhor corruption, whether by a secular Avraham Hirchson or an observant Shlomo Benizri, and we cheer when we see justice done. We want our children to be safe on the streets, well-educated and able to live securely, now and in future generations. We love Israel, we are in awe of its beauty, we are dedicated to its survival and we are willing to place our lives on the line - just by living here! - to demonstrate our loyalty to this country. All this may sound overly optimistic, even naive. But I believe it, because Hope springs eternal. At least in life, if not in lingerie. The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana.