Religious passengers slam racy commercials, threaten railway boycott
Initiative to entertain commuters sparks outrage of conservative passengers shocked by sexually explicit content broadcast on large-scale 'inescapable' television screens. 'Is it really necessary to have girls in their bikinis up there?' Asks one such protester
In an effort to alleviate the boredom of passengers waiting for their trains to arrive, Israel Railways has recently installed a number of large plasma screens in its stations and on its outdoor platforms.
But not everyone is pleased with the initiative, particularly since the railway signed a deal bringing Channel 10's broadcasts live to the platform screens.
As Israel's second largest public commercial channel, the network has recently hit the ratings jackpot with an Israeli version of reality powerhouse Survivor. But episode promos depicting the scantily-clad participants have outraged ultra-Orthodox, religious and even some secular train passengers.
One such secular objector is Menachem, a resident of Modi'in who works in Tel Aviv and says he makes three round trips into the city every work, always by train. "I don't own a television so as not to bring this sort of problematic content into my home, and I don't understand why I am stripped of that right to choose what I do or do not want to watch the moment I enter the station," he says, adding that the large screens are placed in numerous spots along the platforms so "that they're quite inescapable."
"Anyone who's taken the train before knows that it's not just any public venue, all of Israel is there. There are soldiers and National Service girls and university students and yeshiva scholars – why destroy that harmony by offending the sensibilities of so many passengers? Why is it so crucial to display girls in their bikinis up there?"
'Abominable piece of filth'Menachem says that while he understands the railroad management's desire to create a pleasant environment for its passengers, there is a difference between handing out newspapers and setting up television screens: "Nobody is forcing me to take the paper, but I can't avoid the Channel 10 broadcasts."
Members of religious Internet forums minced no words in voicing their displeasure with the railway. "Israel Railways is screening an abominable piece of filth titled Survivor, a cheap telenovela from Channel 10," writes one poster, "vulgarly offending innocent Jewish children and teenagers - spare the souls of our virtuous children!"
"We will have to call for a mass boycott of the trains by the religious public. I was shocked at the impertinence of the content, without being given the choice of whether you wish to see it or not. This is cheap coercion and it does against Jewish principles."
Israel Railways said in response that the content broadcast on the screens is provided by Channel 10 – "a public channel which is monitored by the Second Authority for Television and Radio and which complies with the code of ethics and broadcast limitations."