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Ikea Israel apologizes for excluding women from catalogue

La mode consistant à se laisser enfermer dans un magasin Ikea jusqu'à l'ouverture des portes le lendemain agace le groupe suédois
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (AFP/Archives)
Catalogue was first attempt to reach ultra-Orthodox community, which has a strict policy of gender segregation

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

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

According to news website Ynet, the male-only catalogue 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 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 catalogue 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".

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

"We realise that people are upset about this and that the publication does not live up to what Ikea stands for and we apologise 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, with nearly 400 stores in 48 countries worldwide, has three branches in Israel.

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