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Soho restaurant Photo: Shaul Golan
Soho restaurant Photo: Shaul Golan
 
 

Couple accuses restaurant of racist policy

Muhamad and Sama Sufri's attempt to make restaurant reservations under real names was denied; but when they used a fake Jewish names their reservation was accepted

Danny Spektor
Published: 11.11.12, 13:28 / Israel News

Sama and Muhamad Sufri, an Arab-Israeli couple from Tel Aviv, enjoy eating out. One of their favorite dining spots is the Soho restaurant in Rishon Lezion, but sadly on Thursday the restaurant made them lose their appetite.

 

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In an angry letter posted on Facebook, Muhamamd, 31, protested against "racism at the sushi restaurant". In the post, which received thousands of likes and shares, he recalled his experience: "We have eaten at this restaurant many times before, only previously it was Jewish friends who had made the reservations," he said.

 

"Four years ago Sama called to reserve a table and the hostess apologized and told her that the restaurant was full. A few minutes later I called and tried to reserve a table under the name Moti (a Jewish name, short for Mordechai), only to have my reservation accepted. I asked to speak with the owner, the manager apologized and offered us free a dessert, which I rejected. I decided to put that evening behind us".

 

'No problem'

However, this May the event reoccurred: "We had a bad feeling so we decided to record the call," Sufri recalls. "The hostess inquired about the meaning of the name Sama, and when my wife told her it means 'sky' in Arabic, then suddenly everything changed. Suddenly we were asked to hold, and then after a few minutes we were informed that the program used to take reservations was stuck and that they were currently unable to take reservations.

 

"I hung up and called again, this time presenting myself with a Jewish name. The hostess said 'no problem', and that is when we understood that there is indeed a problem.

 

Later my wife called again, giving her real name, and again we were told that the program was stuck. Thursday I tried reserving a table under the name Walid (an Arabic name) and was told the restaurant was full. Then I understood that this is really a phenomenon."

 

"I could not believe that something like this could actually happen," he said. "I couldn't believe that a restaurant of such a magnitude could be racist, I tried to deny it to myself for a long time. But I couldn't any longer, it is a fact".

 

To little, to late

According to him, another couple had a similar experience, and judging by the reactions on Facebook they are not alone. "I won't go to this restaurant any more", he said. "There are more than enough good quality restaurants in the area that do not care what your name is or where you come from. Even if they apologize it wont make a difference anymore".

 

In response, the Soho restaurant said: "Soho restaurant is one of the busiest restaurants in Israel. Hundreds of people call daily to make reservations, and the restaurant employs six receptions so as to deal with the demand. It is not uncommon that a customer will receive a negative reply when attempting to reserve a table because of lack of availability, while another one will receive a positive one a few minutes later because of a cancelation that happened in-between.

 

"Sadly, at times, our reservation software crashes as result of pressure on the system, and sometimes customers are passed on to a different receptionist with a different system. Even in this case, at the end, after being transferred, the couple was able to get a reservation.

 

"Mr. and Ms. Sufri are regular customers; they have at least four reservations to their name during the last few months, as well as other reservations made with friends. All of these reservations were registered with no problems. Soho believes in complete equality without prejudice against religion, creed or gender. Mr. and Ms. Sufri are always welcome at the restaurant."

 

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