Ikea Israel apologizes for female-free catalog
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Ikea Israel apologizes for female-free catalog

Furniture giant responds to outcry over publication of brochure tailored specifically to Jewish state’s large ultra-Orthodox community

The cover of the IKEA catalog aimed at ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, which does not feature any women or girls in its images. (screen capture)
The cover of the IKEA catalog aimed at ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, which does not feature any women or girls in its images. (screen capture)

The Israeli branch of Swedish furniture giant Ikea has apologized for issuing a catalog aimed at Jewish ultra-Orthodox customers containing no images of females.

The catalog was a first such attempt to reach out to the ultra-Orthodox community, which makes up around 10 percent of Israel’s population and lives in compliance with a strict interpretation of Jewish laws.

The male-only catalog, featuring ultra-Orthodox models, was published in addition to the regular brochure.

According to news website Ynet, the male-only catalog highlights items in demand among ultra-Orthodox families, which tend to be large, such as bunk beds and bookshelves to handle extensive collections on Jewish law.

The cover of the regular IKEA catalog, as seen on its Hebrew-language website in February 2017. (screen capture)
The cover of the regular IKEA catalog, as seen on its Hebrew-language website in February 2017. (screen capture)

The cover shows an ultra-Orthodox man gazing into an open book standing next to a bookshelf packed with Jewish scriptures and a large silver menora candelabrum, with two boys playing on the carpet nearby.

“Designed especially for you,” read the Hebrew words below the large blue “IKEA.”

Ynet said reactions to the catalog included “confusion, sarcasm and incredulity.”

Some ultra-Orthodox Jews follow a strict policy of gender segregation, and images of women and girls are frequently removed from advertisements aimed at that community.

A spokeswoman for Ikea in Sweden stressed that their brand “stands for equal rights.”

“We find that the local publication from Ikea Israel does not live up to this,” she said, noting that “the franchisee in Israel takes this seriously,” and will “safeguard that future publications are in line with what our brand stands for.”

Ikea store in Netanya, 2007 (photo credit: Hagit Rabinowitz/Flash90)
Ikea store in Netanya, 2007 (Hagit Rabinowitz/Flash90)

Shuky Koblenz, chief executive of Ikea in Israel, said they issued a “customized” brochure in February aimed at the ultra-Orthodox “in an attempt to reach this minority community in Israel.”

“We realize that people are upset about this and that the publication does not live up to what Ikea stands for and we apologize for this,” he said in a statement.

“We will make sure that future publications will reflect what Ikea stands for and at the same time show respect for the Haredi community,” he said, using the Hebrew term for the ultra-Orthodox.

IKEA, which has nearly 400 outlets in 48 countries worldwide, has proven to be a smash hit in Israel, with three stores — in Netanya and Rishon Lezion in the center of the country, and a third in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Ata. The restaurants are all kosher, and the stores are closed on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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