A summer camp at the Jerusalem International YMCA has provoked outrage after organizers refused to include an Israeli flag with a collection of national flags from around the world currently adorning the building.
The Jerusalem International YMCA, a cultural and sports center and subsidiary of the global Young Men's Christian Association, has traditionally promoted friendship between Christians, Muslims and Jews with countless joint cultural and sports events. The building itself, considered one of the most beautiful in Jerusalem, is a historical landmark.
Parents of children currently attending the "Magical World Voyage" summer camps at the YMCA have voiced outrage over the absence of the Israeli flag from the collection of world flags decorating the building. Members of the YMCA sports facilities are also angered by the decision not to display the Israeli flag.
"The flag of Israel is a supremely important symbol, and suddenly our flag is not on display at the YMCA, which is supposed to bring Jews, Christians and Muslims together," said a father of one of the campers. "Our camp includes Jews and Arabs. We were told by the management that the Israeli flag wasn't hung to avoid offending the Arab children and parents. That is a very grave [decision]."
Jerusalem councilman Meir Turgeman, who heads the city's control committee, has received many complaints on the issue. In a letter he addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Turgeman wrote, "it is a disgrace that there are those who are trying to distance themselves from their Israeli identity. Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel, and of everyone who lives here. The decision not to wave the flag was deliberate and systematic. In light of this decision, there is talk of revoking the YMCA's city funding."
Another city councilman, Yair Gabbai, also condemned the decision, telling Channel 1 news that "in no other country, would the YMCA organization allow itself to behave the way it behaves in Israel. It is unbelievably insolent to be a guest in a country, sit in its capital, and spit on its institutions."
Miri Edry, the mother of a camper, told Channel 1, "I was told that just as there is no flag of Palestine, there is no flag of Israel. That is unacceptable. After all, the main focus of this summer camp is a shared experience of all cultures and all peoples, and we are in the State of Israel, and this is our national flag."
In a statement, Jerusalem International YMCA CEO Forsan Hussein said that "there was a misunderstanding. I understand that the issue is sensitive, but the fact that I avoided hanging an Israeli flag or a Palestinian flag doesn't mean that we don't recognize Israel's existence. We wanted to give the children an international experience."