WATCH: Is Israel (and the rest of the world) ready for Kosher Sex shop?

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Tel Aviv – At first glance, the stylish boutique on Tel Aviv’s Montefiore Street looks like any other fancy store in this swanky part of the city. Hip denim hangs from a single circular rail above polished hardwood floors. Healing crystals are laid out neatly on a shiny mirrored table.

But closer inspection of the shelves and the window display suggests something else is on sale here, and it’s something not found anywhere else in the world: kosher sex.

The shop is named for the controversial, best-selling self-help book "Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy" published 20 years ago by American celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach. 

Kosher Sex – the store – was opened last month by Chana Boteach, the rabbi’s daughter, and sells products meant to induce a healthy dose of sexual intimacy and spirituality between committed couples. "People are broken and lonelier than ever before," said Chana Boteach, 29. "We are reclaiming sex and helping to create passion and intimacy between two people."

Not exactly what most think of when thinking of Israel.

According to Boteach, and her father before her, Judaism has a unique approach to sexual intimacy: Sex is not meant only for procreation nor should it serve only as recreation. Instead, the religion embraces anything that encourages a close and loving connection between two people.

Boteach, who moved to Israel from the US nine years ago, said although the store has a clear Jewish message derived from holy Jewish texts – hence "kosher" sex – it also has "something that everyone can relate to".

Her customers, she said, come from "all walks of life". Religious and secular, Jewish and not, married and single. "They are people who are craving to give sexuality more meaning."

The store itself is gleaming and airy and open, unlike the kind of "red-light district" shops – as Boteach puts it – in some other parts of Tel Aviv. Boteach added that the inventory has been carefully selected to be both "elegant and tasteful."

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A window display at the newly opened Kosher Sex store in Tel Aviv. Picture: Ruth Eglash/ Washington Post 

Delicately handling one of the silicone toys, she said the spongy material is uniquely designed to fit the contours of a woman’s body. A gold necklace dangling on a display can also double as a sex prop, said Boteach: "For wives to send a subtle message to their husbands about fun later on." Some of the more high-end products, such as the crystal toys, cost as much as $170 (about R2 600).

None of what is on sale is meant to replace a husband, Boteach said. In Judaism, men are commanded to please their wives in the bedroom, and all the products are meant to assist them in doing just that.

Boteach said her long-term business goal is to see Kosher Sex stores opening in the US. In the meantime, she shares retail space with a friend, a fashion designer reimagining denim clothing much in the same way she is reimagining sex. The presence of clothing also helps soften the emphasis on products that some might find embarrassing.

The Washington Post

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