The appropriate response to an institution that refuses to allow Jews free expression – even as one as venerable as the King David Hotel – is to refuse to utilize the services of said institution, said MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home) after it was revealed Sunday that the hotel had asked a Jewish musical band to take off their kippahs and hide their tzitzis in order not to offend Arab workers.
The incident, reported by Army Radio, took place several weeks ago during an event for workers of the hotel, most of whom are Arabs. Playing music at the event was a group of religious musicians called Anbelim, who specialize in a classical Jewish as well as Middle Eastern music. The group prepared a variety of pieces, with an emphasis on the latter, given their audience.
As the group was about to perform, its leader got a phone call from the producer who arranged the show, telling him that the hotel’s management had requested that they remove their kippahs and place their tzitzis inside their clothing, because a large number of the workers were “offended,” and were refusing to enter the reception hall where the event was taking place.
Speaking to Army Radio, the group’s leader asked the members to put on funny hats. “Obviously I wasn’t going to ask them to take off their kippahs, but I didn’t want to tell them the real reason for the hats,” he said. “They thought it was part of some comedy shtick they were going to be involved in. I just wanted to get on with the show and not have the musicians angrily walk off stage, which they might have done had I told them what was going on.”
However, during the show, he got another phone call – this time asking him to instruct the musicians to tuck their tzitzis inside their clothing. “This time I explained to them that they had gone too far and that I would not comply,” the bandleader said. “I said if they preferred we could end the show at that point and leave.” Despite the tension, the group completed the show, and even got compliments from the audience for their performance, he said.
After the show, the bandleader confronted the hotel manager, and was told that they felt justified in making such requests, since the event was being held for Arab workers during one of their holidays. “We cannot accept a situation in Israel where kippahs and tzitzis are banned because they ‘hurt’ people’s feelings,” he said. “We have staged many shows before Arab audiences and this is the first time this has happened.”
“The demand to hide Jewish clothing items is an unbelievable shock, besides being a violation of the law,” Slomiansky said. “It is especially troubling that it took place at this hotel, which hosts many official events and ceremonies of the State of Israel, which is supposed to be not only democratic, but Jewish as well.” The hotel has not commented on the incident.