"Sex in the City" will premier in Israel next week, but Sarah Jessica Parker won't be the star of any billboards in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem and Petah Tikva objected to the use of the word "sex" on the billboards, according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. The cities requested that the word "sex" be omitted from the advertisements.
Rather than drop the three-letter word, the film's distributor decided that a famous movie about sex didn't really need billboards and refused to put up ads that read "... in the City."
Arye Barak, the spokesman for the distribution company Forum Films, said that it is ridiculous to omit the word because it is part of the title. "There was no way we were going to give in," he said. "It just doesn't make sense visually to have three dots instead of the word sex, followed by 'in the city.'"
"Who doesn't know the word sex?" Barak said. "If we're following this rule, then Knesset member Ofir Penis should not appear in Jerusalem. Even George Bush can have a double meaning in English."
Amir Schilby, a 30-year-old who lives in Jerusalem, said that the request is quite "typical" of certain sectors of the population. Schilby lives among many Orthodox people, and religious surroundings affect his daily life. For instance, he said, he can only find food that is prepared according to Jewish dietary laws.
"But the word 'sex' is just a word," he said. "It exists. You can find it in the dictionary."
"When you prohibit people from seeing a word, it goes beyond wearing modest clothes in certain areas and not using public transportation on Shabbat," he said.
Dudu Simhy, a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that requests to take down the word sex are totally justified. "The people in certain parts of Jerusalem are trying to preserve some family values, and that can only be preserved with the help of the surrounding society," he said.
"This could seem like religious coersion," Simhy said. "But it's justified due to the fact that in Jerusalem, you can't take all aspects of secular life as a right. It's a unique city."
This incident reminded 28-year-old Odelia Atias of the gay parade that was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem last year but was met with an onslaught of religious leaders' protests.
"There should be a compromise between religious people and nonreligious people," she said.
Avital Stern, a 21-year-old who moved to Israel three years ago, said that the situation is amusing because there are commercials and pictures displayed in areas in Jerusalem that are much more risque than the title of the movie. "There are provocative pictures in the clothing ads where girls are dressed provocatively in different positions with guys."
Despite the fact that these ads exist, Stern acknowledged that many religious people in Jerusalem protested the ads, banned the stores, and wanted to make the pictures more conservative. "This city is held in a higher regard," Stern said.
Barak said that the billboard company he works with has experience advertising in Jerusalem. "We would never think of going into Mea Shearim or any other ultra-religious neighborhood," he said. "We respect people. It's different in other areas of Jerusalem."
This is not the first time Western advertisements have been an issue in Israel. When the animated picture Tarzan premiered, the billboards featured the naked character with a loin cloth.
"In that situation, we said we would do something about it," Barak said. "We enlarged the cloth."