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Losing face


Billboards throughout most of Israel-Palestine, display what you might have thought was an uncontroversial advertisement for the clothing shop Honigman. It shows a typically fetching woman with dark hair in a red top and with a bag over one arm.

But in Jerusalem you will see a different version of the poster: the picture zooms in on the bag and most of the top, leaving the woman with one arm and no head.

The edit is a result of a successful campaign by the Haredim, or 'Ultra Orthodox' Jews of Jerusalem, to prevent women's faces being shown in the city. Posters that do depict women have been torn down, or defaced in both senses of the word. Advertisers have adapted their posters rather than waste their money on pictures that will be destroyed.

Another campaign affected is by the National Transplant Centre. Their bus posters showed lots of headshots of people holding donor cards to encourage citizens to sign up. After they were warned that buses would be burned if they went ahead, the Centre replaced the posters with a men-only montage.  
A counter-attack is underway. A group called Yerushalmim has distributed posters displaying photographs of six volunteers around the city. The picture above shows one of them. They are also appealing to Jewish women abroad to send pictures of themselves holding the words 'Women should be seen and heard'.

'The idea is to return the city space to its natural state', explained one of the group's leaders, the Conservative rabbi Uri Ayalon, in the newspaper Haaretz,  'and turn the appearance of women into something boring, that no one notices.'

One of the women photographed, Idit Karni, added, 'I am not for cheap exploitation of a woman's body, but a minority can't take over the city and cause women and girls to disappear. I have four daughters, and I don't intend to leave them a city that has lost its sanity.'