Peace Group Denied Permission to Operate Chabad-like Stand at Ben-Gurion Airport

Artists Without Walls wanted to set up stand managed by Jews and Arabs 'who would be open to dialogue with passengers about coexistence.'

The Israel Airports Authority rejected on Tuesday a request by a joint Palestinian-Israeli peace group to open a stand at the passenger terminal at Ben-Gurion International Airport like the one operated by the Chabad movement.

Eitan Heller, the Israeli representative of Artists Without Walls, wrote a letter to Israel Airports Authority CEO Kobi Mor saying the group had a specific place in mind for the stand which would "serve free coffee and be managed by Jews and Arabs, who would be open to dialogue with passengers about coexistence and tolerance."

Heller said that on his frequent trips abroad he has noticed the presence of the Chabad stand, where passersby are asked to put on phylacteries.

Heller said he has nothing against Chabad, which does good work around the world. "But I cannot understand why a specific religious group has its own stand in an open area in an international air terminal," he said. "This is a phenomenon I have not experienced anywhere else in the world."

In rejecting the request, the airport manager, Shmuel Kandel, said that Chabad provides a service to "religious consumers and travelers who want to avail themselves of this service." He noted that in a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Movement for Progressive Judaism, the court did not override the IAA's right to designate to Chabad an area for the use travelers. Kandel ended his letter by saying that Chabad "is aware of its obligation not to approach passengers, and airport inspectors make sure this is the case."