Israeli Amusement Park Admits: Segregation Policy Applied to ultra-Orthodox Too, Not Just Arabs

Over past two to three years, both Jewish and Arab schools asked Superland to separate visiting days due to tension and violence, management representative tells Knesset education committee.

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The Superland amusement park has been applying its segregation policies on visiting schools for the last two to three years, the park's management admitted during a Knesset committee discussion Monday, and has also applied the policy ultra-Orthodox schools.

A representative of the park also told the Knesset's Education, Culture and Sports committee that different visiting days were booked not just for Arab students, but for ultra-Orthodox schools too.

The committee discussion on the Rishon Letzion park's segregation policies comes less than a week after Khaled Shakra,  a seventh grade teaher at a Jaffa school, disclosed that the amusement park had refused to let him book his class on a particular date, only to offer it up when he called back a second time and pretended to be a Jew.

Following the public criticism that accompanied the story after it broke last week, the park's management said it would reconsider its policy of renting out the park to Jewish and Arab schools on separate days. The park added, however, that the policy was enforced only in response to requests made by the schools themselves, which feared tension and violence between the different sectors of society.

Shakra addressed the committee during its discussion on Sunday, saying segregation between Jews and Arabs should not be tolerated. "It starts with Jews and Arabs, but then moves on to other ethnic groups," he said. Superland's management should increase the workforce if there is fear of violence, to prevent such incidents, he said. His students were very frustrated after hearing the response of the park, Khaled added.

Superland's deputy director Hani Baruch told the committee that segregation was not an official policy, but rather a way to address a specific problem.

"There is an issue with teenagers visiting [the park] at a problematic age," she explained. "This is a place where, for the first time, Jewish and Arab youths meet, and it creates tension. [Schools] from both sectors have asked us for separate [days], but once we realized that someone found it offensive we apologized… and a clear orden was given to end the segregation."

When asked by MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad) how long the park has been separating visitors from Jewish and Arab schools, Baruch answered that it has taken place for the past two to three years. Baruch also said that the park implemented segregation with other sectors of society, such as ultra-Orthodox schools.

The park's management was harshly criticized by the committee's chairman, MK Amram Mitzna (Hatnuah), who said: "I am outraged by your attempt to rationalize, to justify and to explain, and I sense that you don’t realize the gravity of your mistake."

At the end of the session, Mitzna used the opportunity to condemn a program which was sponsored by former Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar (Likud), that takes students on trips to Hebron, and said that he is under the impression that there was a different atmosphere at the Education Ministry since the last elections.  

Superland amusement park at Rishon Letzion.Credit: Tal Cohen

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