Israeli call-in sex radio program nixed threats are suspected

JERUSALEM — The sound of the bride and groom may be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, but not sexologist Dr. Yaakov Meir-Weil's advice program "Al Pi Shnayim Yakum."

The call-in show, broadcast on local station Radio Jerusalem, has been pulled from the air after haredi groups allegedly threatened to take away the kashrut certificate of station owner Micha Levy's capital banquet hall if the program was not dropped.

The program, in which the Hadassah Medical Center sexology unit head offered advice to callers in a program similar to what Dr. Ruth Westheimer does in the United States, was yanked off the air recently, with Meir-Weil given only six hours' notice.

"They called me and said they were taking it off the air," Meir-Weil said. No real explanation for the decision was given to him, he said. However, "this very short notice I received does not show radio planning but yielding to pressures, but I have no idea where they came from."

However, a source close to the program said: "As far as I know there was some kind of pressure put on Levy from religious circles or rabbis. They told him they would take away the kashrut certificate from his banquet hall."

Levy owns the Nof Catering Hall in Jerusalem's Shalom Hotel, located in Bayit Vagan, a mostly religious neighborhood.

Levy denied there were any threats made regarding the program. "There were a few calls from people who said the program was too vulgar. So we haven't yet taken it off the air completely. We've decided to delay it for a while. We are evaluating the program, weighing what to do, and all the steps we've taken are temporary. We will check the matter. It's possible it will return; it may not."

A request for a response from Deputy Mayor Haim Miller's office was answered by a woman who said the decision to take the program off was "excellent," and who asked the caller not to even talk to her about the matter. Miller could not be reached for comment.

Meir-Weil said he has been doing the show for about five months, "and until now there were no complaints. Nobody spoke to me, or asked me to change anything. Nobody tried to censor it or asked me to change language or content. Feedback was good, many people were calling in, so I had no reason to try to change it."

Many callers to the program have identified themselves as being religious, Meir-Weil said, adding that the program wasn't directed at such people.

Dr. Uri Wernik, director of Misgav Ladach Hospital's sex therapy clinic, said he was surprised by the move. Although he said he was not familiar with the show specifically, "Judaism overall has a very positive approach toward sex; it's regarded as a mitzvah. It's not just for the sake of having children, but also for the couple to be together.

"The idea of sexuality is supposed to have a certain degree of modesty attached to it, but proper discussions of it should not bother people, even in religious circles."

Sharon, a Jerusalemite who said she had regularly listened to the program, said she had found it "very interesting and fun to listen to. It was nice to know that if you had a question, you had someone to turn to where you didn't have to feel embarrassed.

"After all, everyone has questions, and it's not the kind of thing you talk about at the Shabbat dinner table. It was nice to have a forum for such things.

"The haredim obviously are busy having sex, judging by the number of children they have, and it would seem to me that they could benefit from such a program, since they're much less likely to talk among themselves about such things."