Furniture giant IKEA sent out a catalog for the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel that deliberately omits women or girls from the images inside.
The catalog is for direct distribution to the Haredi community, and features items that are more likely to be used by them, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Wednesday. The items include bunk beds and bookcases designed to hold holy books, and even folding tables and beds meant for use on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, when the traditionally large families gather together.
Targeting its specific audience, one of the items on sale is a table touted for use on Shabbat. The caption of the image accompanying the “Shabbat table” encourages customers buy it in order to “revel in family togetherness” — without any female presence in the image.
The absence of women sparked a wave of reactions online.
“Where did the mother go in this picture?” asked one person, referring to a photo of a family meal in which only the father and his sons can be seen.
“Oh this is great. I didn’t know there are single-parent families in the Haredi sector too,” said one cynical response.
“From the age of three, girls are not allowed in pictures,” another comment read.
IKEA 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.
IKEA Israel said the catalog was produced in response to public demand.
“In light of the inquiries we received, we decided to launch a dedicated and unique magazine that also allows the Haredi and religious public the benefit of enjoying the products and solutions IKEA offers in accordance with their lifestyle.”
There is no difference in prices in the catalog and the regular one sent out to the rest of the country. IKEA said it is happy to send a free copy of the magazine to anyone who requests it, religious or secular, via its customer service center.
About 11 percent of Israel’s 8.5 million citizens are Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox. Recognizable by their black hats and long black clothes, they often lead insular lives, separated from the more secular Jewish majority and closely adhering to Jewish laws. Ultra-Orthodox women traditionally dress in long skirts and long-sleeved shirts, covering their hair if they are married. Men and women sit separately at synagogues and weddings and unrelated women and men refrain from physical contact.
Israel’s ultra-Orthodox media, which include four daily newspapers, two main weeklies and two main websites, cater to conservative ideals that include preserving women’s modesty and skipping topics involving drugs, murder and sex. Many consider showing pictures of women a violation of those values, however newsworthy the figure.
AP contributed to this report