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Can you tell what’s wrong with this photo taken at an Israeli pharmacy?

Succumbing to pressure from local rabbis, ‘kashrut supervisors’ placed stickers on products showing women

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

An Israeli pharmacy chain has caused an uproar by placing stickers on women’s photos on its products in a largely ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv suburb.

Sources told TheMarker, the business newspaper in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition, that the job was done by a paid “kashrut supervisor.” Kashrut normally refers to adherence to Jewish dietary laws.

Executives at the chain, Be, said the move was the result of pressure at one store by local rabbis, who threatened to call a boycott on the branch in the town of Bnei Brak.

The move marks the latest effort by some segments of the ultra-Orthodox community to cover images of women’s faces in a bid to decrease contact between the sexes.

The executives said they were frustrated by the demand but had to comply. “Do you want us not to open stores in ultra-Orthodox cities?” one executive asked. “Or should we resist the residents’ demands and have them protesting in front of our stores all day?”

Photos of the purple stickers went viral on Tuesday; a resident of a nearby town who was shopping at the branch was the first to upload a picture. The purple on the stickers is the same color the chain uses in its marketing.

The effort caused a stir Tuesday, though a tweet posted nearly three years ago also shows stickers covering women’s faces.

The woman who uploaded the first photo Tuesday, whose first name is Galit, said she wanted to avoid an altercation so she did not talk to anyone in the store.

“Anyway, what would they say?” Galit said. “But I think it’s crazy. What are they thinking – that a man is aroused by a woman’s face? And what’s the message they’re sending to girls who come to the store? That they should cover their faces?”

The women’s group Bonot Alternativa has launched an online campaign against the pharmacy’s actions.

“When we started with ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ performances, we never imagined that women would be hidden in the public sphere so soon and so blatantly. Our warnings are already becoming a reality,” said Moran Zer Katzenstein, who founded Bonot Alternativa.

Be is owned by Shufersal, Israel’s largest supermarket chain.

“Shufersal’s conscious decision to act as it did reinforces the tangible danger of unfathomable extremism and distortion, and paves the way for even more via the judicial coup,” Zer Katzenstein added, referring to the hard-right government’s attempt to weaken the judicial system.

The pharmacy chain added: “We respect all segments of the Israeli population. The picture at issue was taken at a store in Bnei Brak serving the ultra-Orthodox community. Please note that this involves only that store.”

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