Off the Rails on the Zionist Roller Coaster

In the Israel of 2013, racism takes place nearly every day, not just at amusement parks like Superland.

Rotem Shtarkman
Rotem Shtarkman
Rotem Shtarkman
Rotem Shtarkman

Rishon Letzion's Superland amusement park might be the essence of Israeliness with its provinciality, pushing and shoving, and standing in line, but it also gives us hope for normalcy. At Superland, you can find Ethiopians, Mizrahim, Ashkenazim, Russians, Arabs, fat people, skinny people, children and old people all having fun together. You can see them feasting on greasy French fries, getting dizzy on the roller coaster and seeking an illusion that life can be great. It’s a kind of multiculturalism – if phony.

But where is that normalcy when it turns out that Superland has special days for Jewish children only? In a normal country, the prime minister would call a press conference and roundly condemn the racism. He would warn against a return to the South Africa and maybe even the Europe of decades ago. If he were too busy, he would at least release a statement condemning the practice and telling us what to do. Meanwhile, the police or the municipality would shut the place down for a few days.

In a normal country, parents would immediately boycott Superland, the Luna Park, the Meymadion water park, the Zapari bird park and the ISkate rinks – all of them under the same ownership – in the run-up to the summer vacation. Spontaneously, hundreds of people would demonstrate outside these places.

Of course, this hasn’t happened and it won't happen. So it’s interesting to discover that in 1989 the Israel Lands Administration awarded those 94 dunams (23 acres) in Rishon Letzion without a tender and almost for free – for a project defined as “the Zionism Train.”

So how does the Zionism Train look 24 years later? Racist and sick. In the Israel of 2013 violent acts based on racism take place nearly every day – whether against Ethiopians, labor migrants or Arabs. They take place at the shopping mall, on the street or on the soccer field. Arabs also get special treatment at the hands of the price-tag people, those militant settlers who are never caught and never punished.

But maybe there's still hope? Immediately after Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s unfortunate statements against Arabs ("the Zuabis,” referring to controversial MK Hanin Zuabi), a clause on addressing racism was written into his party's coalition agreement with Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. It said the government would appoint a committee “to develop a plan for the war on racism” within 30 days of taking office.

After 90 days the committee is supposed to present the government with a plan. But more than two months have gone by and no committee has been established. The racism is only increasing.

Superland amusement park at Rishon Letzion.Credit: Tal Cohen
Superland amusement park at Rishon Letzion.Credit: Nir Keidar

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