Arab rejected by spa; lawyer accepted in Jewish disguise

Jihad Abu Ahmad was rejected by a Nof Hagalil spa. His lawyer presented himself as "Haim Cohen," and got accepted.

August 11, 2019 10:57
2 minute read.
Nof Hagalil (Upper Nazareth), Nazareth and Migdal Ha'emek among Jewish and Arab localities (in green

Nof Hagalil (Upper Nazareth), Nazareth and Migdal Ha'emek among Jewish and Arab localities (in green). (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

An Arab resident of Nazareth is suing the Nof Hagalil municipality after being rejected by a public spa, while his lawyer, presenting himself as a Jew from a nearby town, got accepted – Israeli media reported.

Jihad Abu Ahmad, an Arab resident of Nazareth, was trying to subscribe to "Country Spa Illit" in the city of Nof Hagalil, formerly known as Upper Nazareth.

When talking to the spa's marketing department, Abu Ahmad was told that the subscription can only be bought by the residents of the city – Haaretz reported.

According to Haaretz, in the call's recording, the worker is heard telling Abu Ahmad that "only [residents of] Upper Nazareth, Nof Hagalil… The problem is not the person, it's the place of residence," denying hints of racism.

She added that "there are no exceptions, we don't accept foreigners," adding that he can ask a local friend to buy a 10-visit card for him.

Abu Ahmad contacted his lawyer, Yamen Masalha, who presented himself to the spa's personnel as Haim Cohen, a resident of Migdal Ha'emek.

According to Haaretz, Masalha was told "you can understand the drill… We don't accept foreigners… We can't accept one and reject the other… If I accept one foreigner, I'll have to accept [residents of] Nazareth and Kafr Kana."

Masalha spoke to the spa's manager, asking her to "make an exception" for "Cohen" and his wife.
She told him that the subscriptions can only be purchased by the residents of Nof Hagalil "with the exception of some other towns in the area".

After making sure that "Cohen" is from Migdal Ha'emek, the manager let him buy an annual subscription – Haaretz reported.

Abu Ahmad decided to file a civil suit against the spa and the City of Nof Hagalil on the grounds of discrimination, saying "[his lawyer, presenting himself as] 'Haim Cohen from Migdal Ha'emek,' who, as far as I'm concerned, isn't from Nof Hagalil, is accepted, but Jihad Abu Ahmad is rejected because 'there are no exceptions.'"

"Given the presented recordings, there is no doubt that the respondents' behavior regarding marketing and sale of subscriptions is improper, and that its goal is racial, ethnic and national discrimination," is said in the complaint, adding that even if the Arab minority in Nof Hagalil is able to buy a subscription, "there is no proportion between the [amount of] Jews who get accepted to the [amount of] Arabs who do."

The attorney representing Abu Ahmad told Haaretz that "in most of the cases, you can see discrimination, but you can't [legally] expose it. This time we managed to point out [evidence of] hard discrimination, and show that it is ethnically-motivated."

He added that the ethnic motivations "were shown to the [person presenting himself as a] Jew, when the operator explicitly said that if he is accepted, they would have to accept the local Arabs."

This marks another incident in a series of alleged segregation in public parks and municipal properties, where the entrance is open exclusively to local residents.

The attorney representing the spa responded, dismissing the allegations and saying that "the operating company is legally bound to sell subscriptions exclusively to residents of the city, and is unable to sell subscriptions to foreigners, regardless of ethnic origin, race or nationality."

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