October 14, 2014, Jerusalem – In an important victory for women’s rights in Israel, a long-awaited advertising campaign funded by the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) launched last week on Jerusalem’s Egged buses, depicting women as Israeli citizens – and implying their equality with men across all forums. Within a few days, the ads were vandalized, bringing additional police and public attention to the need to convey women’s equality in Israel.
The ad images are part of the “Yerushalmiot – Naim LeHakir” (“We are Jerusalemite women – Pleased to meet you”) campaign, which appeared on buses after a two-year battle that included Israel’s High Court of Justice and the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem, Rachel Azaria, whose own image was prohibited from appearing on public transit for fear of protests and violent backlash.
“These images of everyday women of all faiths send a powerful message to anyone who seeks to limit the participation of Israeli women in public life,” said NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman. “In a healthy democratic society, it is crucial that the voices of 50% of Israel’s population be welcomed. I expect the police to thoroughly investigate this vandalism and bring the perpetrator to justice.”
A diverse group of women from all arenas of life in Jerusalem united to create the campaign, which had to clear a number of hurdles before the ads were posted. Yerushalmiot initially faced opposition from an advertising agency refusing to run the ads because they were concerned they would experience a backlash if they displayed images of women in the public sphere. The creators of the ads fought back, appealing to the High Court of Justice in the height of their battle. In April, the court declared that women could not be prohibited from taking part in public life and therefore, could not be excluded from advertisements on public transportation.
After being postponed due to the violence this summer, the ads are now sending a much-needed message of solidarity and tolerance by featuring secular, modern Orthodox, Ultra Orthodox Jewish, and Muslim women.
“The diversity of the women who committed to this campaign and their hope in creating a permanent change in Jerusalem’s public sphere creates hope in us that a real change in society and discourse is possible,” said Shari Eshet, Director of NCJW’s Israel Office.
The ads will be running on buses through the end of October.