אופיר שלום חאטב
Ophir Shalom Khatab in his shop
Photo: Yaron Sharon
Ophir Shalom Khatab in his shop

'God created us as sexual beings': Religious man who manages sex shop in southern Israel

Ophir Shalom Khatab his wife together manage shop selling sex toys, having had a 'spiritual breakthrough' six years ago; 'There’s no contradiction between this shop and Judaism, even Gur Hassidim have a shop like this,' he says

Shani Zohar Shdema |
Published: 09.10.22, 08:53
A huge purple sign reading: “Secret Shay – Temple to Love” hangs above one of the stores at Be'er Sheva “BIG” open-air shopping mall. Ophir Shalom Khatab, who runs the shop with his wife, Riki, smiles as he welcomes me into his shop. Apart from a black kippah, he’s dressed head to toe in white, concealing tattoos of Bible verses and Kabbalistic symbols.
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  • I smile as he leads me into the shop. “Secret Shay has been going for 13 years, but we weren’t always very well received. It’s been a work in progress," he explains.
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    אופיר שלום חאטב
    אופיר שלום חאטב
    Ophir Shalom Khatab in his shop
    (Photo: Yaron Sharon)
    "People used to ask us: ‘What are you doing? How can you put a shop like this in the middle of BIG. And with the windows open? Are you crazy? What is even a sex toy shop? What’s going on with you?’ My spiritual journey has given me the tools to deal with people who have their doubts. I teach and explain the Jewish approach to sexuality.”
    He pauses for a moment, choosing his words carefully: “The creator of heaven and Earth just wants to do good things for his creations. The creator made us as sexual beings and he really didn’t plan on us being ashamed of our sexuality. We need to address some very deep aspects of how we connect with pleasure. We have both - pleasure in sanctity’ and pleasure in impurity.’”
    What are “pleasure in purity” and “pleasure in sanctity”?
    “Pleasure in sanctity is the connection between a man and a woman. In a true connection between a consenting man and woman, absolutely everything is permitted,” he says with great determination. “Toys aide a couple’s connection and their pleasure, because however sensitive, loving and wonderful you are, you don’t vibrate. Likewise, however much the toy vibrates, it can’t look you into your eyes, kiss you, tell you: ‘Darling, I love you’. It’s a lethal combination of man and machine.”
    Ophir Khatab was a different man before opening the shop. ”15-20 years ago, I was more in touch with ‘pleasure in impurity’. I was constantly on the lookout for my next conquest, looking to pleasure women, even if they were already in a relationship, even if I was already in a relationship. It made no difference. I just wanted more and more - to make me feel more of a man.”
    He says he used to be completely secular. “I was heretic, to put it politely. I was totally driven by money and business.”
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    אופיר שלום חאטב
    אופיר שלום חאטב
    Ophir Shalom Khatab in his shop
    (Photo: Yaron Sharon)
    He tells me that he was working for a company selling alcohol. “And then, 13 years ago, I went to Colombia. I was sitting on the beach. I asked myself some hard questions: Where was I going from here. What was I going to do with myself?”
    When he found the answers, he realized that he had to move on from being a salaried employee to opening up a business of his own. “And then I asked myself what I liked doing. An inner voice said ‘sex’. I then asked myself what I was best at. And the inner voice said ‘persuading, selling’. That’s how the idea of selling sex came about.”
    How did your wife react to the idea of opening a shop for sex toys?
    “I shared the idea with my beloved wife, Rikki. She said to me ‘Have you lost your mind? Are you nuts? Having a vibrator in my bedside cabinet doesn’t mean I can educate the Jewish people about pleasure. No way. I’m out.’ I said to her: ‘Rikki, can’t you see? There’s a ton of money here.’” She wasn’t into the business. It took her time to come around.”
    After a great deal of persuasion, Rikki came on board and 13 years ago, the couple opened “Secret Shay” - naming the shop after their two daughters. “Our eldest, Raz is the ‘secret’ and our little one, Shay is the gift.”
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    אופיר שלום חאטב
    אופיר שלום חאטב
    Ophir Shalom Khatab
    (Photo: Yaron Sharon)
    How do your daughters feel about it?
    “At first, they were embarrassed. When they were younger, when they were asked at school what their parents did, they’d shout out 'self-employed!' But things have changed over time."
    Six years ago, Khatab experienced what he calls a “spiritual breakthrough.” My grandmother, to whom I was very close, passed away. At her grave, I asked her to open up the gates of heaven to help me become successful. I was thinking that she would free up something for me financially.
    "As fortune would have it, what opened up was something spiritual. Over three or four years, I experienced a very accelerated process in which every day shone brighter. I was reading books and Kabbalah every day. A messianic spark ignited in me.”
    How did your spiritual awaking affect business?
    “It affected life at home. The girls felt their father had lost it. My beloved wife was okay with it up to a point. At some stage, she sat me down and said ‘Listen, I married a guy from the streets of Be'er Sheva. I didn’t marry the Messiah.”
    He laughs, but quickly turns serious: “In that same conversation, she said we should separate and get divorced. It was a decisive moment in my spiritual journey. I realized that I had to come back down to Earth.”
    7 View gallery
    אופיר שלום חאטב
    אופיר שלום חאטב
    Ophir Shalom Khatab in his shop
    (Photo: Yaron Sharon)
    Following Ophir’s new religious connection, the business was rebranded. “Initially, ’Secret Shay’ was about gifts for sex education, then it became a boutique store for lovers and now it’s a ‘Temple of Love’. Our focal Biblical verse is Genesis 4:1: “And the man knew Eve his wife.”
    Isn’t there a contradiction between religion and sexuality?
    “This shop in no way contradicts Judaism. Quite the opposite. When we sign a Jewish marriage contract, a ketubbah, we’re signed onto the mitzva of pleasuring our wives, which means that even if I’m scholar studying at a Beit Midrash, I’m commanded to pleasure my wife. Halakha [the collective body of Jewish religious laws] permits sex toys. Even the Gur Hassidim have a shop like this.”
    Khatab explains that this, too, is a process and he’s certain that in the very near future, sex shops will no longer be taboo in the religious community. “Naturally, some communities, such as the Satmar Hassidim, are more conservative and wouldn’t approve. The commandment is to go forth and multiply. Wham-bam and it’s over. What kind of pleasure is that for the woman? What’s that about? It’s forbidden.
    “Religious people passing by my shop sometimes look away, muttering: ‘Good God, you’re a clown, a heretic.’ But I also have regular customers, who are rabbis as well as religious women, who come to thank me, telling me that I’m doing a good deed and how good it is that I’m here, that I’ve saved their marriage.”
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    סקס-טק
    סקס-טק
    Sex toys/Illustration
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    What other customers do you have?
    “About 30% of my customers are Bedouin – that’s a lot. A Bedouin man might come into the shop and say that he wants a two-hour orgasm. We’ll always say: ‘Wait up. Your wife needs to enjoy herself a bit more. Do you want her to have more pleasure?’ And he’ll answer ‘Yes, of course.’ Then it starts sinking in. A Bedouin mother came in with her daughter and said to me: ‘Listen. She’s getting married next week. I want you to explain everything to her.’ It was very moving for us.”
    What do people see when they come into your shop?
    “When a person comes into the shop, they’ll see me, a religious man, sitting here, barefoot, chillin’, praying, reading Torah, sometimes practicing playing my oud. People usually smile and say hello. I then pour them some water and the conversation kicks off from there – it’s not a sales pitch.
    “A guy might come in after watching porn and say he wants one of these,” Khatab says, pointing at a huge dildo. “We then explain that something else would probably be better as chances are that his partner won’t take it well, tell him he’s a pervert and instruct him to return it.
    “You can’t return our products. We’re very clear about that. That’s why we ask the right questions. ‘What are you looking for? Is it a gift? Something for yourself? For your partner? Do you know about sex toys?’ If they’re not familiar with sex toys, we start from the beginning.”
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    Sex toys/Illustration
    Sex toys/Illustration
    Sex toys/Illustration
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    A large sign hangs over the shop door displaying a flow-chart outlining, the order of use for the sex toys.
    “There are a number of stages. First, there are card games facilitating communication between the couple. Within relationships, for fear of upsetting or offending our partners, we don’t always say what we want to, so we carry on not communicating. This creates distance between the couple. The game works on the premise that the couple themselves don’t actually say anything, but rather the it’s the games that says things. It's an introductory game that doesn't require the use of toys.
    “The second stage is a toy called the ‘pocket rocket.’ It’s a basic, non-penetrative toy that stimulates the clitoris.” Showing me a small rabbit vibrator, he further explains: “A lot of toys don’t look threatening or scary, like this naughty bunny. Look how cute it is.
    “The third stage is more of a couple thing. I’ll suggest they use a vibrating cock ring," he says.
    “The fourth stage involves penetration with a mini vibrator and then a regular vibrator. Couples can then move onto dominance and submission games, and then onto anal sex, which is the most advanced stage requiring a high degree of connection and trust between the partners. My mission is to teach people about connecting to pleasure and sanctity."
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    Illustration of a couple in bed
    Illustration of a couple in bed
    Illustration of a couple in bed
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    When you get to heaven, do you think God will be happy with you?
    “God will be very happy with me because that’s his light. The light of the creator and of creation is connection and unity. When a plant connects to the earth and it grows, you don’t see it suffering. It’s a celebration. It blossoms. Our connections between and a man and a woman must blossom and flourish. We simply need to live our lives with love and happiness.”
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