(IsraelNN.com) The Mayor of Tiberias (Tverya) has ordered the suspension of Rabbi Refael Cohen, Head of Kashrut Department in the Religious Council, after Cohen issued a directive to clothing shops to cover “naked” mannequins in their shopfront windows.
Cohen recently distributed a letter to numerous clothing shops in Tiberias, instructing them to remove photographs of scantily clad models and dress the unclothed mannequins on display in their front windows as well.
Cohen said that by promoting immodesty, these stores hurt religious residents’ feelings and also “cause great sorrow to the tzaddikim [righteous holy people – ed.] who are buried in the city.”
According to a report in Ma’ariv Wednesday, Cohen threatened to publish a list of stores that insist on immodest displays, and said that shopping in such stores would cause “irreversible damage” to residents of Tiberias. "Modest" mannequins are all right, he explained, “But there are mannequins that are really revolting, mannequins in bathing suits that damage our souls."
He added that "obscene photographs" showing models in swimsuits or underwear "elicit sorrow among the passers-by on the road."
Mayor gets angry
When Tiberias Mayor Zohar Oved got wind of the matter on Wednesday, he spoke with the Head of the Religious Council, Yaakov Sheetrit, and called for Cohen to be suspended.
“I deplore Rabbi Cohen’s strange actions, which upset the delicate balance between the city’s different sectors,” Oved said. “Tiberias is an international tourist city,” he added, “and as such it contains tourist zones which operate peacefully alongside neighborhoods with a religious character.”
“The bond between religious and secular in the city is a close one and I will not allow a rabbi acting as he pleases and with no support, to upset it,” he declared.
By Thursday he had gotten his wish, and Cohen was suspended.
The Tiberias Municipality termed Cohen’s recent statements and actions, which include a demand for greater adherence to kashrut in the city’s businesses, as “unilateral actions that do not have the backing of the Religious Council.”
Cohen aroused controversy a few months ago, and even received alleged death threats, when he called for a boycott of the Big Shopping Center because it is open on Saturdays.