Schools in Israel are letting out for the summer. One of the great traditions in Israel is the end-of-the-year class trip. These outings should be an opportunity for students to have fun and relax after the stress of exams. One of the most popular destinations is the Superland amusement park in Rishon LeZion, a city a few miles south of Tel Aviv. However, due to an unfortunate policy by the park’s management, students felt the sting of discrimination instead of the thrill of a roller coaster.
In an attempt to avoid “problems” it was decided that the park would separate the days that Arab and Jewish schools were permitted to have students come to visit in groups. Just last week, Khaled Shakra, who teaches at an Arab school in Jaffa, called to reserve a date. After a long pause from the park staff member on the phone, Shakra was told that there was not enough room for his group on any of the days requested. Feeling something was not right, he called back a short while later under an assumed name and said he worked at a Jewish school. He was immediately told that there were spaces available for his group on the days that only moments before were filled.
The excuse that students of different religions might get into trouble if they are allowed to visit the same amusement park on the same day does not justify discrimination. It is one of the basic principles of the State that all citizens, regardless or religion, are entitled to the same rights and quality of life. Just as we do not sit silently when women are forced to sit in the back of the bus, we do not allow Israel’s non-Jewish minority to be treated as second class citizens.
The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) moved its legal team into action once we became aware of this policy of separate days for Jewish and Arab students. A letter was sent to the park’s management threatening legal action if this policy does not immediately change. It is our contention that an amusement park, or any similar establishment, should be open to all of Israel’s citizens. Moreover, this kind of separation is not only illegal but also a missed opportunity for Israeli kids of different backgrounds to interact in a fun and carefree environment.
Thanks to the public outcry from IRAC and many other individuals and organizations the park is now likely to end this unfair practice. We will continue to monitor their actions, so that any school who wishes to take their students to the Superland amusement park will not be turned away for discriminatory reasons.
Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center.