Davos has long been recognized as a popular tourist destination for ultra-Orthodox Jewish travelers from Israel and around the world. However, tensions between these tourists and the local community have been on the rise in recent years. Locals have expressed concerns about disrespectful behavior and a lack of regard for local customs, while tourists have frequently raised allegations of antisemitism.
A recent incident has caused significant uproar within the Jewish community in Switzerland, even making headlines in the country's prominent newspaper, the Tages-Anzeiger. According to the report, a mountain station located at the base of the Alps, where skiing trails begin and winter sports equipment is available for rent, displayed a sign in Hebrew outside the entrance.
The sign stated that no more sports equipment would be rented to "our Jewish brothers." The message further explained that this decision was made due to various troubling incidents, including a sled being stolen. The sign specifically mentioned that the rental restriction applied to all equipment, including sleds, air boards, ski jackets and snowshoes. The station expressed gratitude for the customers' understanding.
A 21-year-old Orthodox Jewish man who visited the site requested to rent equipment but was denied. "I pretended not to understand Hebrew and asked if we could rent the equipment. After the woman consulted with the manager, she rejected our request," he shared. When the young man inquired about the reason for the refusal, the woman responded that it was not her decision. "The incident left me very saddened. It is discriminatory and antisemitic," he said.
Shortly after, another woman joined the conversation and it was reiterated that the group could not rent any equipment. "It was deeply disheartening. We experienced active discrimination solely based on our religion," she lamented.
Jonathan Kreutner, head of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, who is believed to be in Davos himself at the moment, said: "It's a shocking and clearly discriminatory poster. An entire group of guests is being collectively labelled because of their appearance and origin."
Antisemitism or Jews crying wolf?
The shop, which is near the mountain station, released a statement Sunday to explain itself. "Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. We experience these things every day," the statement said. Shop managers explained that some Jewish guests rent sleds but then leave them on the ski slopes, causing problems. Some also call emergency services, even though nobody is hurt.
"We can't take the risk anymore that a guest gets seriously hurt and sues us," shop officials said. But it's not just about safety. The company that runs the rental station also claimed that many Jewish guests rent equipment, like sleds, but don't return them or return them damaged. They also complained that tourists often take the best spots on the terrace or inside the restaurant and turn it into a big picnic event.
The recent incident involving friction between ultra-Orthodox tourists and the town of Davos is not the first time they have made headlines for negative reasons. Last summer, the country faced turmoil when reports emerged that some locals had refused to rent their Airbnb apartments to ultra-Orthodox Jewish tourists.
The decision made by the tourism policy commissioner in Davos to end its longstanding cooperation, which included a dialogue project with the local Jewish community, caused a significant uproar. This project, led by Kreutner for many years, aimed to foster understanding and promote learning between ultra-Orthodox tourists and the local population.
Its goal was to improve the overall experience for everyone during the busy vacation period by exploring the values and customs of each party. However, reports started to circulate about Jewish tourists leaving significant litter on the lawns, trespassing on private property, disregarding local traffic laws, and more. The locals were outraged by these actions, leading the authorities to sever ties with the Jewish community.