Ikea has admitted that it made an “error” in publishing its catalogue without pictures of women, for distribution within Israel’s strictly Orthodox community.
With three stores in the country, the Swedish-owned homeware brand is a household name in Israel. But last week there was a public outcry, after it emerged that a special issue of the chain’s standard catalogue had been printed and distributed to religious consumers.
Charedi publications often ban images of women – including world leaders and major public figures like the Queen and Hillary Clinton – due to a requirement for “modesty”. This practice is commonplace within strictly Orthodox communities in Israel and worldwide.
The cover of the catalogue shows a man with peyes in tzitzit and a kippah reading from a religious text book, while two young boys in kippot play close by. “Designed especially for you”, read the Hebrew words below the large blue Ikea.
The catalogue reportedly features furniture that would be in particular demand among Charedi families, including cots, bunk beds and book shelves for religious books. It is available free of charge and features the same prices as the standard version.
According to a report on Ynet, a statement from the company’s Israeli headquarters said: "Due to requests we received, we decided to launch an alternative and special catalogue, which allows the religious and Charedi communities to enjoy thumbing through our products and the solutions that Ikea offers in accordance with their lifestyle."
But in Sweden the company’s spokeswoman Josefin Thorell told news agency TT that it "is not something that has gone through us". She said that the company had been “very clear” about “what the Ikea brand stands for” and said that the Israeli franchise had made an “error” in trying to “reach a consumer group”.