Hotels may have a synagogue or provide kosher meals, but they will also ask guests to vacate their rooms in the afternoon, way before the Sabbath’s end.
Until now, religious tourists have been forced to choose between desecrating Shabbat, paying a significantly higher price, cancelling their vacation and waiting in lobbies with their luggage until the stars appear.
Now they are asking the local rabbinate to act against this phenomenon.
In light of numerous complaints on this issue, the Tel Aviv Religious Council turned to the city’s Hotel Association and demanded that it change their current policies and allow guests to stay in their rooms until Shabbat ends.
The Association insisted that around the world check-out is in the afternoon, but the chairman of the religious council promised to "stop this shameful phenomenon.”
Peretz Dagan, a Kiryat Ata resident who made a reservation a few months ago at one of the Tel Aviv beachfront hotels, cancelled his plans under similar circumstances.
Lately, he turned to the city's chief rabbi, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, and asked him to work towards changing this policy just like he supervises kosher kitchens and dining rooms.
It's 4 pm, time to check-out
Dagan described the incident in a letter and revealed how he was informed on the eve of Shavuot that the accommodations he made terminated during the height of the holiday.
“When we asked what we as religious people are to do, they told us that at 4 pm we should move our belongings, including money, phones etc. to another place in the hotel and wait until the holiday ends,” said Dagan.
Later, he asked to speak to a senior hotel representative and the next day was answered that he can stay in the room until 6 pm at the latest.
“I was told that even for an additional fee, it was unfeasible to stay in the room until the end of the holiday because they wouldn’t be able to sell the room to another guest. Simply unbelievable! I explained that in my estimation it was exactly like 4 pm and that the solution did not suit me,” he wrote to Rabbi Lau.
“I request to ensure that the Tel Aviv Rabbinate which kashers the food served at hotels, does not assist in a situation in which religious guests are forced to desecrate Shabbat and holidays. I don’t know what other people do about this issue, but unfortunately I asked to cancel my reservation anyway,” said Dagan.
Another tourist, Shmaya Greenfeld, said that he was forced to pay NIS 400 (about $110) for an additional one and a half hours at the hotel.
“What is a religious family supposed to do? How do these hotels continue receiving kosher certificates? Please let us know your opinion on stopping this disgrace and irresponsibility.”
Sodom in Tel Aviv
Another person who filed a complaint told Ynet, “I checked and found that in many places in Israel, hotels are forgiving and give up on the few hours; but in Tel Aviv they act in a Sodom-like fashion and insist upon punctual check-outs even if the rooms were not reserved for Saturday night.
“I can understand if this took place in busy August or when all the pilgrims come to Israel during Shabbat, but this is usually not the case. The percentage of religious people is high, at times the hotels really rely on this population, they are loyal customers and I don’t understand this petty plotting. Kicking this population out for a few cents?”
In light of the many appeals, the Tel Aviv Rabbinate asked the city’s Hotel Association to clarify the issue. Hotel supervisor Daniel Levy wrote to the management, “The religious council is making huge efforts to promote tourism in Tel Aviv, but this announcement regarding guests has hurt the way of life of those desiring to vacation in the city on Shabbat.
“A hotel that continues with this demand causes desecration of Shabbat and harms incoming tourism. Thus, we ask that you allow this population to vacate their rooms upon Shabbat’s end.”
Eli Ziv, director-general of the Tel Aviv Hotel Association, responded by saying that “this issue is not an issue of keeping the Sabbath but rather of a proper reservation in exchange for a fee or a proper arrangement set with the hotel itself.”
He mentioned that all the hotels in Israel and in the world conduct their check-out in the afternoon and claimed that hotels receive guests at the end of the Sabbath and thus, need to make arrangements and prepare the rooms beforehand.
He therefore determined that there was no reason why guests should stay later if this was not arranged at the time of the reservation; a procedure known by mitzvah-abiding guests.
“When the reservation is made, the hotel is not aware of who keeps the Sabbath and who doesn’t,” wrote Ziv to the rabbinate.
“It is unreasonable for a hotel to ask each guest making a reservation if they keep the Sabbath or not…In any event, if the guest did not make arrangements in advance, the hotel provides a luggage checking service until the Sabbath is out… As far as I know, some of the relevant hotels in Tel Aviv have already determined a special price for late check-out on Shabbat and it could be that some do not charge extra.”
Eldad Mizrachi, who heads the Tel Aviv Religious Council, told Ynet, “I expect hotel owners to behave reasonably and appropriately towards tourists and hotel guests. It is unfathomable that Shabbat-keeping guests will be kicked out during the Sabbath; an act like this is like anti-religious coercion.
“This intolerable behavior, which is both cruel and idiotic, is unimaginable and hurts the feelings of a wide public which plays a significant role in internal tourism in general,” said Mizrachi.
“It is important to emphasize that in the last few years, joint efforts have been made to bring religious tourism to the city which makes tens of thousands of reservations throughout the country,” he said.
“It is a shame that monetary greed with no explanation or justice will harm these efforts. It is our intention to work opposite the necessary people in order to prevent this shameful phenomenon,” said Mizrachi.