An Israeli soldier looks at a Playboy magazine in a kiosk in Jerusalem. (Abir Sultan / EPA )
JERUSALEM -- The first Hebrew-language issue of Playboy magazine started selling in Israel on Wednesday, featuring Israeli model Natalie Dadon on the cover and an interview with Minister of Home Front Defense Avi Dichter, formerly head of Israel's Shin Bet domestic security service.
Publisher Daniel Pomerantz, a U.S.-born business attorney and recent immigrant to Israel, explained in The Times of Israel his move to bring Playboy on aliyah -- immigration to Israel -- along with him.
Pomerantz sees Playboy's magic in its contradictions -- much like Israel, he wrote.
In a recorded message, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner expressed pride in the newest franchise addition to his empire, saying the magazine was embarking on "its mission to play an important role in strengthening the freedom of speech, freedom of choice and freedom of press."
The magazine could face an uphill battle against religious conservatives in Israel, women's organizations and market forces but public relations consultant Danielle Peters, of the Tel-Aviv office handling the Playboy account, says "we have faith in the brand."
"Naturally, there will be objections and this is perfectly legitimate," said Peters, who believes that despite potential objections from religious circles, "Israel is ready for Playboy."
Religious conservatives previously have defaced and vandalized billboards and street advertisements featuring women. Advertisers often remove images of women from ads.
The editor in chief of the Hebrew version of the magazine, Neta Jakobovitz-Keidar, told reporters she was confident that "plenty of women will find us interesting," saying that women make up at least a fifth of the U.S. readership.
In a post on the new website, also launched Wednesday, Jakobovitz-Keidar said that over the years, Playboy had matured into a legitimate magazine that leans on "values of freedom of choice in a world of modern media."
Peters believes it is right for women to have a role in the magazine in keeping nudity and any portrayal of women beautiful and artistic. "We are here to ensure women are empowered, not demeaned."
The launch coincided with International Women's Day.
When the Playboy Channel was made available to Israeli viewers on satellite TV a decade ago, it took a high court ruling to keep it on the air.
Number of Syrian refugees tops 1 million, U.N. says
American bid for more openness at Vatican is quashed
Bolshoi Ballet dancer, 2 others confess to acid attack, police say