A Jaffa high school teacher has alleged that an amusement park in Rishon Lezion denied his class entry after discovering that the teacher and his students were Arabs.
Khaled Shakra, an English and seventh-grade homeroom teacher at the L. B. Ajial High School in Jaffa, has said that employees at Superland discriminated against him and his students by refusing to sell them tickets. The denial was due to discrimination, Shakra alleged.
According to the teacher, the incident began when he called to order tickets. The operator apparently explained to Shakra that the amusement park would open in a few days especially for schools, and offered Shakra information about ticket prices. Then, after asking Shakra what school he represented, the employee's approach changed.
"She got quiet for a second and put me on hold," Shakra said, after which the operator transferred the Jaffa teacher to another operator, who told Shakra that tickets were sold out for the date that he had requested. The operator suggested another date, but after Shakra accepted the offer, the employee said that tickets were also sold out for that day.
"I felt like the minute I said that this was an Arab school, they flinched. I even said how very important [the trip] was to me, but the operator never got back to me," Shakra said.
After his request was deferred, Shakra called Superland again, told the operator his name was "Eyal," and ordered tickets for his students. According to Shakra, with little fuss, the operator simply told "Eyal" to choose a date.
"Absurd. How could I stand in front of my class and explain what had happened? It was a terrible feeling of disappointment and anger. I have dealt with racism in my life, but I have never encountered such things before. I teach my students values, principles and proper discourse, and at the end of the day this is the kind of regard they get," the teacher said.
Politicians across the political spectrum have censured the amusement park, and a prominent youth group has even pulled its summer trips.
Following the exchange, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni asked Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to order law enforcement authorities to investigate whether Superland had in fact discriminated against Arab students.
"This incident, if the facts are correct, is a grave symptom of a sick democracy -- every such phenomenon must be treated seriously," Livni said.
In the coming weeks, Livni is expected to submit a bill that would define discrimination as a crime, and crack down on manifestations of discrimination, racism and exclusion.
Meretz MK Michal Rozin also responded to the incident, asking Education Minister Shay Piron (Yesh Atid) to cancel all state-sponsored trips to Superland.
"This is a symptom of a racist society, which is thousands of light years away from the vision in the Declaration of Independence," said Rozin.
Likud MK Reuven Rivlin also called on the education minister to get involved in the affair.
"If the reports are found to be true, then the education minister has to call off all educational institutions' trips there. We have to stop this rampant nationalism within our society, which is also under the influence of the Knesset mood. We cannot treat this flippantly," Rivlin said.
Youth group Hashomer Hatzair announced that "thousands of youth group members would not visit Superland throughout the summer," in response to what it said was the "discovery of racism" at the amusement park.
"Racism is criminal and sick and has to stop guiding the public discourse in Israel," said Hashomer Hatzair spokesperson Ofer Neiman in a press release. "If the Superland management conducts an appropriate investigation that deals with those responsible for this embarrassing behavior, we will consider restarting our cooperation with it [the amusement park]."
According to Superland, which responded on Thursday to the allegations, because of "tensions and violence" that can arise when schools separately serving the Jewish and Arab communities book end-of-the-year events on the same day, some Arab schools have asked that the park limit certain days to Arab schools alone.
Superland's management said that it had "just received two requests from Arab schools, which asked specifically that the event be limited to Arab schools only, with no schools from the Jewish sector."
The park said that "tensions and violence" would erupt should schools serving the Jewish and Arab communities attend Superland on the same day.
"Nevertheless, Superland is very sensitive to the wishes and feelings of all visitors. Therefore, it will be assessed in the coming days whether the park will continue honor schools' requests to hold [events on] separate days," the park's management said.