Uruguayan hostel sued over refusal to admit Israeli couple
South American country rocked following Ynet revealing Rocha hostel refused to admit Israeli couple because owner was 'very against policy of (their) country'; parliamentarian sues owner, demolition order issued to hostel once it's revealed it was operating without licenses; Israelis band to down vote hostel, which is blocked on Israeli Booking.com.
Charges have been pressed in Uruguay against the owner of the Buena Vista Valizas hostel, who refused to admit an Israeli couple simply because they were Israelis. Following Ynet's report of the incident, a member of the Uruguayan parliament sued the hostel's owner and called on the tourism minister and on the mayor of Rocha, the municipality in which the hotel is located, to join him, Spanish paper El País reported Saturday in its Uruguayan edition.
The suit's aim, the parliament member named Alejo Umpiérrez said, was to protect Uruguay's image, emphasizing its appeal to tourists.
Umpiérrez added the hostel owner's refusal constituted a "breach of the law on combating racism, xenophobia and discrimination, as well as a criminal offense."
The parliament member added that, "The incident and its ramifications have shown the public and social outcry such events produce, on the international level as well."
'The incident is not congruent with our tradition as an open country'
The story about the Israeli couple being refused has made waves in the South American country. Initially, the owner of Buena Vista Valizas notified the two through the Booking website that they were not wanted on his property because they were Israelis.
"I had not seen that they were from Israel," the website's cancelation message from the owner said. "I am very against the policy of your country and you are not welcome in my house."
The El País story on the incident said the Uruguayan Tourism Ministry confirmed Friday morning it had received a discrimination complaint regarding an Israeli couple wishing to stay at the aforementioned hostel.
The complaint, the paper said, came from the Central Committee of Israeli in Uruguay (CCIU). A message on the Tourism Ministry's official Twitter page said, "This is unacceptable and not congruent with our tradition as a country open to receive visitors from all over the world."
The article further said that the hostel was also apparently operating illegally, without a license or being registered. "The hotel in question is not registered with the Tourism Ministry, and it was therefore decided to send inspectors to the site to have the license examined."
Other reports published in places like the Montevideo Portal website said the hostel received a demolition order. The site further said Rocha Mayor Aníbal Pereyra said that a message communicating the hostel's irregularity and lack of registration in the requisite land forms had already been sent to the owner.
While it's important to note that even if the place is shut down, it will not be directly due to its owner's refusal to host the Israeli couple, only after the incident did local authorities examine the property's legality, which led them to discover it was not properly registered.
'Everyone is appalled by what's been done to you'
Yul Bardosh, the father of A. who is still hiking with her partner in South America and is likely unaware to all of the hubbub caused by her trip, said he has been inundated with messages since the initial report on Thursday.
In addition to contacting Ynet, Bardosh emailed Booking and other touristic sites such as Tripadvisor and Airbnb and asked them to remove the property from their listings.
"It's hard to contact (the couple) right now due to reception problems. We only know they're okay. When she returns to civilization it'll hit her like a ton of bricks," Barodsh jokingly told Ynet.
Bardosh also sent a letter to the Israeli Embassy in Uruguay. The letter he received from Ambassador Nina Ben Ami said, "The story is gaining traction in the media. Everyone is appalled at what's been done to you. The Jewish community wanted to make sure you were alright."
"A local Uruguayan man wrote me today to say he apologizes on behalf of all of the people of Uruguay and offered to welcome you into his Montevideo home," the letter concluded.
"The ambassador and the local's responses are praiseworthy and point to the power of the article, as well as the story itself, and show that not everyone is always against us," Bardosh told Ynet on Saturday.
Following the original article, Israelis seem to have banded together to down vote the hostel's ratings on various tourist sites, in addition to it being blocked on Booking's Israeli site.
"We deeply regret and denounce the incident," the Tourism Ministry summed up its comment. "Our society is pluralistic and varied and we do not allow insular incidents to sow malice and propagate prejudice and malintent. Here we are making a stand, to defend the most precious values of peaceful coexistence in our country."