Zuhir Abu Jumaa of Rahat is a 32-year-old driver's ed instructor and a married father of four who works out at the Beersheba country club.
About a week ago, Abu Jumaa and his friends asked to conduct their evening prayers prior to their routine workout, but were greatly disappointed upon hearing the response.
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A person identifying himself as the country club manager, forbade them from worshipping. A heated argument ensued during which the manager threatened that he would call the police.
The manager recommended that Abu Jumaa request assistance from Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) and threatened to revoke his membership. Abu Jumaa managed to record some of the conversation.
Abu Jumaa was heard saying: "I paid money for this membership, this isn't your territory." The manager answered: "This is my territory."
Then Abu Jumaa replied: "Hey brother, you can't say that I can't pray and that you'll revoke my membership. Who do you think you are? I paid for this."
The voices of other country club workers are also heard on the recording, so it is hard to discern which of the employees spoke. However, the responses were all definitely aimed at Abu Jumaa.
Later in the conversation, the manager said: "If you don't listen to me, you won't be here." Abu Jumaa answered: "I want the police to intervene."
The manager was not amused and said: "I'll tell the police that I don't want you here." Abu Jumaa continued: "Give them a reason, give them a reason. I'm not bothering anyone. You said 'bothering'; with all due respect to your being the manager, you are acting disgustingly." To which the manager replied: "Maybe I am."
'Pray in the pool'At this point, the manager said that he asked Abu Jumaa and his friends to pray upstairs, despite the fact that different things are heard on the recording. Abu Jumaa mentioned that at this point he and his friends were asked to stop praying and were not given an alternative place to do so. One of the managers was heard saying: "What did I tell him? Where to pray? Upstairs, over there."
To this, Abu Jumaa replied, "Call the police and tell them to come; tell them that someone prayed on the grass over here. I'm waiting, the police should come now and you tell them that 'someone with a membership is praying.'"
The manager was later heard saying that "if the police say you can pray, as far as I'm concerned, you can pray in the pool."
Another person in management said, "If I were you, I would cancel my membership, give up. If this is the way you're being treated, what do you need the membership for?"
Abu Jumaa responded: "Are you trying to instigate?" The answer he received was, "Not at all, I am telling the truth," to which Abu Jumaa said, "I don't feel inferior, don't worry, when I stand up for myself, I stand up for myself."
After being degraded, Abu Jumaa decided to restore his honor: "I was amazed that something like this can happen here in Beersheba. If I would see a Jew praying outside my home in Rahat, I'd approach him, take him by the hand and say 'come pray at my house.' This is appalling behavior. When I worked at Pelephone, the Muslim workers were treated nicely and warmly, they made us a special prayer room. I never felt different there."
The country club manager, Yossi Banino responded by saying, "the incident occurred more than a week ago. He was just told not to pray at the interior entrance of the country club. He entered the country club, where there is synthetic grass which cannot be stepped on. I told him to pray inside. It is unpleasant to see someone praying at the entrance."
Banino added: "People are complaining….he was instigating. We allow entrance solely to Beersheba residents and I opened it up to everyone, including Rahat residents. Instead of saying, 'thank you,' they come and instigate. I have employees who pray here; has anyone ever told them not to pray"?
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