‘Would they force Arabs to hide their kheffiyehs?’

May 23, 2016  

Aviya Grushko, the percussionist of the Inbalim band, spoke to Arutz Sheva on Monday about how the prestigious King David Hotel in Jerusalem last Wednesday demanded that members of his band remove their kippot and tuck in their tzitzit during a performance.

The hotel had invited the band to play for its workers, the vast majority of whom are Arabs, and made the discriminatory demand claiming that the sight of the Jewish garb would “hurt the feelings of our Arab workers.”

Grushko told Arutz Sheva that no one from the hotel told the band members in advance that they were expected to appear before an Arab only audience. Instead the hotel management explained that since a majority of the workers are Arabs the band was requested to select an Arab music repertoire appropriate to the audience.

The band did so, adapting its repertoire to suit the audience by including many songs from Umm Kulthum and Farid al-Atrash.

“We arrived in the ‘Caesar’ dining room, we were setting up the amplification (system), adjusting the instruments, and a few minutes before the show we got a phone call from the production and they told us that the hotel wants us to take off our kippot,” said Grushko.

The band members argued with the producer, trying to understand what brought about the request. In the end the band members themselves proposed that they would wear hats instead, in an attempt to defuse the situation.

“They brought us funny hats that weren’t respectable, hats with a smiley face on them. We put the hats on, and twenty minutes later, after we started playing, they asked us to tuck in our tzitzit. There were shouts on the phone and they folded on that demand,” he recalled.

After the event was all over, the band’s secular director Noam Cohen went up to talk with the hotel’s management, in a conversation that was recorded and released to the media.

The recordings of Cohen’s conversation with the management reveal he asked them why they made the demand, why kippot and tzitzit were viewed as somehow offensive to the Arab audience, and what would have happened if members of a Muslim band were demanded to remove their kheffiyehs or other Arab garb so as not to harm the sensibilities of a Jewish audience.

The hotel management was unable to give him a satisfactory answer on any of his questions.

Grushko explained that the conversation left Cohen, who himself does not wear a kippah, feeling very angry over the discriminatory demand.

“We said to ourselves that the public needs to know about this. They need to know that Jews (are forced to) hide kippot,” said Grushko, noting on how MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) reacted to the incident by saying the response needs to be a boycott of the hotel.

Following the incident the Dan Hotels company which manages the King David Hotel issued a statement of denial, reading, “the band performed with joy and love. There was never a request from the hotel management to the band to remove their kippot. That is not our way, and we are sorry over the attempt to create incorrect provocations. The (hotel) chain respects all religions and will continue to do so in the future.”

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