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Superland Photo: Gadi Kabalo
Superland Photo: Gadi Kabalo
 
 

Amusement park denies entry to Arab teacher, students

Superland Rishon Lezion is trying to minimize damage after its decision not to allow Arab students in its gates on certain days caused tumult. Education Minister to discriminated teacher: I'm shocked

Shahar Chai
Published: 05.30.13, 16:20 / Israel News

A Jaffa school teacher complained that Superland Rishon Lezion prevented him from buying tickets for Arab students, a complaint which was followed by the amusement park's management admission that the park is open to Jewish schools on certain days and Arab schools on other days. The park management released another statement on its Facebook page Thursday morning, announcing that the policy, which provoked fierce public criticism, will be reexamined.

 

"Throughout most of the year, Superland is open to the entire public without any difference to different segments of the population," the management tried to explain the discrimination.

 

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"In June, various schools ask to use Superland grounds to hold end of year events. The Superland management received requests from both Jewish and Arab schools to conduct the events on separate days. We have taken the requests into consideration and this month a few different days were set for different sectors. However, in the next few days, we will reexamine the decision to agree to these requests."

 

The exposure of this discrimination led the Chairman of the Education, Culture and Sports Committee MK Amram Mitzna to hold an urgent hearing on Monday. Mitzna called on Education Minister Shai Piron to stop schools from sending their students to Superland and the mayor of Rishon Lezion to take legal actions against the discriminators. "This behavior is a slap in the face of the efforts to deal with racism within Israeli society," said Mitzna.

 

'No place in Israeli society'

Piron himself spoke on the phone with Khaled Shakra, the Jaffa high-school teacher who exposed the story. The minister said: "I'm shocked at the face of such acts that have no place in Israeli society. I see a joint life, between Jews and Arabs, as one of the fundamental values of the Declaration of Independence. Values of equality, partnership and tolerance are at the heart of the Education Ministry's policies."

 

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon referred to the story on his Facbook page: "When I hear the teacher who was discriminated against at Superland, and when I read Superlan's unprecedented response, I ask myself how any one of us would respond if in any other country there would be a discrimination in parks between regular and Jewish schools. I believe I would be as shocked and ashamed as I am now."

 

The Abraham Fund Initiatives, operating a venture to promote coexistence between Jews and Arabs, responded to the discrimination: "It is important that the Education Ministry send a clear message that there should be no activity in or with places that racially segregate between Jewish and Arab students.

 

Minister Piron spoke last week in front of the Knesset Education Committee about the importance he finds in programs that bring Jewish and Arab students together, and the severe incident at Superland highlights the urgency in implementing these measures in the education system."

 

HaShomer HaTzair youth movement decided in response to these events that its thousands of members would not go to Superland as part of their summer camps. Hashomer Hatzair spokesperson Ofer Neiman said that "racism is a criminal and sick act that must stop leading the discourse in the Israeli public. If the Superland management conducts a proper investigation and deals with those responsible for this embarrassing behavior we will reconsider our collaboration with the park."

 

The National Student and Youth Council said "this is contempt of the Israel democracy. Here, on our piece of land, to which we returned after many years of persecution and discrimination, it is inconceivable we would do the same thing. We call on school principals to cancel any agreements with Superland and demand the company operating the park to renounce this criminal act."

 

In wake of the public uproar, the park's management released an additional statement saying: "Recently, the Superland's management responded (possibly mistakenly, but certainly not maliciously) to requests lodged by both Jewish and Arab schools to visit the park separately."

 

"It should be stressed," the statement reiterated, "that these requests came from both Arab and Jewish schools. The Superland never has, nor will it ever, tolerate any expressions of racism. We apologize to our Jewish and Arab visitors who were hurt as a result of the Superland's consent to the schools' requests."

 

 

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