ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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'An offense against the holy of holies'

Women’s rights group decries Haredi site not showing slain female soldier’s picture

Na’amat urges Facebook users to change their profile pictures to Lia Ben Nun’s image with a banner reading: ‘Hero. No one will erase her face’

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

A composite picture featured on the Haredi news site JDN features a candle flame instead of the portrait of Lia Ben Nun, who was killed along with two male soldiers guarding Israel's southern border on June 3, 2023. (Screen capture taken from JDN.co.il)
A composite picture featured on the Haredi news site JDN features a candle flame instead of the portrait of Lia Ben Nun, who was killed along with two male soldiers guarding Israel's southern border on June 3, 2023. (Screen capture taken from JDN.co.il)

Women’s rights organization Na’amat changed its profile picture on Facebook Sunday to that of a female soldier killed in a shooting attack, after a Haredi news site censored it in its reporting for religious reasons.

The change was part of a social media campaign by Na’amat, one of the country’s oldest women’s rights groups, in response to the reporting by the JDN news site about the slaying of three soldiers — two men and a woman — on Saturday morning near Israel’s border with Egypt.

JDN’s articles about the incident featured a composite picture containing portraits of the male fatalities, Ohad Dahan and Ori Yitzhak Iluz, but only the background from a picture of the third fatality, Lia Ben Nun.

Another version of this graphic element had the image of a lit candle instead of any of the portraits of the soldier made available by her family and friends. Na’amat urged Facebook users to also change their pictures to Ben Nun’s, displaying a banner that reads: “Hero. No one will erase her face.”

Some Haredi Jews consider showing images of women immodest, and publications with very devout audiences censor them, mainly in printed newspapers where this is an established practice. Vandalism against posters with pictures of women on them — including on buses that drive through heavily Haredi neighborhoods — is not uncommon.

Women’s rights groups and others often protest the tendency to erase women from the public space in devout Haredi circles. The fact that this was applied to a soldier who died guarding the country’s border was particularly upsetting to many Israelis, who viewed it as disrespectful toward her and a sign of radicalization.

Lia Ben Nun, left, receives a kiss during a party thrown for her birthday in May 2023. (Courtesy of the family of Lia Ben Nun)

The deadly attack, in which an Egyptian police officer killed three soldiers before being shot dead by Israeli troops, happened amid an ongoing debate over the exemption of yeshiva students from military and national service.

Na’amat chairwoman Hagit Pe’er wrote Sunday that the censoring of Ben Nun’s picture by JDN, which is a major Haredi news site, is “an offense against the holy of holies.” She lamented that “a young soldier who physically defended all Israelis, secular and religious is treated with such contempt and discrimination by the editors of that news site.” She called on other Haredi leaders to also protest this behavior.

JDN did not immediately respond to a query by The Times of Israel seeking a reaction to the criticism leveled against it.

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