Israeli authorities have removed a “peeping toms” mural that had long been a fixture of a Tel Aviv beach in response to public outrage over the suspected gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in the southern resort of Eilat.
Painted 18 years ago and often criticised as sexist, the mural on the wall of a women’s changing room was painted over by a municipal worker on Sunday. It had depicted two young men in bathing suits peering inside.
The mural was a nod to the beach’s name, Metzizim, Hebrew for “peeping toms”, which in turn was the title of a cult 1972 film about a lifeguard who spies on his friends’ sexual escapades at the seashore.
The mural, located at what the Lonely Planet guide describes as “actually a family-friendly beach” on the Mediterranean, had previously survived defacement by women’s rights groups, which complained that sexual assault cases in Israel were not prosecuted thoroughly.
Tel Aviv’s mayor, Ron Huldai, said on Sunday that it was time for the painting after the assault on the teenage girl at Eilat on the Red Sea on 12 August.
“Freedom of expression and the arts are important values in our city, but because the painting was seen as acceptance of a forbidden and criminal act, we have decided to say goodbye to it,” Huldai wrote on Twitter.
Police said they would ask a court later in the day to extend the detention of three suspects arrested so far in the rape case. The girl’s lawyer said one of them had told police about 30 men had waited in line to assault her. Media reports said police believed the number involved was far smaller.
Israelis rallied against sexual violence in several cities and on social media last week. The country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, described the Eilat incident as a crime against humanity in a statement on Thursday.
Women’s rights groups planned more protests for Sunday.