Palestinians are no longer bagging groceries most days at the Rami Levi supermarket at the Gush Etzion junction, after a romance between a Palestinian bagger and a Jewish cashier spurred local rabbis to demand that Levi take action.
In an effort to prevent fraternizing between the Palestinian packers and the female Jewish cashiers, baggers are no longer working at the checkout counters most of the week. An exception was made for the Wednesday and Thursday night shifts, when the checkout counters are so busy that there is little opportunity for conversation.
The decision followed a storm that arose in the Gush Etzion settlements after it was reported that a local girl working as a cashier had become romantically involved with one of the Palestinian baggers.
Workers at the supermarket and a leading local rabbi say the Palestinian worker was fired, but Levi denies that, saying, “He’s gone off to Jordan. When he returns, we’ll see.” The cashier quit on her own.
Ever since Rami Levi Shivuk Hashikma opened its Gush Etzion branch, it has been a source of local controversy. It is located near a gas station and not within a settlement, making it possible for Jewish and Arab shoppers to mingle freely. Most of the workers are Palestinians from the area, who handle deliveries, bag groceries and stack shelves. The cashiers are mostly young women from the settlements.
While there have been periodic media reports lauding the supermarket as an island of Palestinian-settler coexistence, right-wing groups and some locals have issued calls to boycott it, saying it was leading to inter-religious relationships. These campaigns did not fare well. In fact, the supermarket has been so crowded that small grocers in the area’s communities have started to fear for their business.
Over the past two weeks, however, after reports of the cashier-packer affair spread, Rabbi Gideon Perl, the rabbi of Alon Shvut, met with chain owner Levi and demanded that he take action to prevent a recurrence.
“There was an affair between a cashier and a bagger that nearly resulted in her leaving home,” Perl told Haaretz. “There was a plan to take her to his village.
“I was asked to talk to Rami Levi and his staff about the problem, and told them that one of the things we had feared when the store opened a year ago was exactly this.
“I’m pleased by the steps Rami Levi has taken. The Arabs don’t particularly like this [interreligious relationships] either, and it seems that Rami Levi understands the problem. The worker was fired and will not return. You need a whip to teach people a lesson after something like this happens.”
Levi denies the worker was fired. He declared himself “against assimilation” and insisted that “there was suspicion of an affair. There was no affair. These extremist groups keep getting involved and making everybody crazy.
“This is the ‘peace supermarket,’ he said. “Extremist Palestinians and Jews don’t like it.”
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