Israeli student group turned away from Louvre

Refusal to accommodate Israeli educator's reservations at two separate institutes, results in both internal and police investigations.

The Louvre Museum (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Louvre Museum
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An Israeli educator looking to bring a group of art students to tour cultural sites in France was refused reservations at two separate institutes, resulting in both internal and police investigations.
Tel Aviv University art professor Sefy Hendler attempted to book reservations online at the Louvre and Paris’s Sainte-Chapelle, a medieval church, for a group of 12 of his top protégés only to find that neither could accommodate him.
Both are public institutions.
Perplexed, he reapplied in the name of two fictitious schools, one in Abu Dhabi and one in Florence, for the same time slot he had originally wanted, this time meeting with success.
“I was deeply shocked. I really didn’t expect it,” he told The Jerusalem Post, recalling that he had been tempted to cancel the trip. He ended up pushing for a resolution to the issue, however, after Francois Heilbronn, president of the French Friends of Tel-Aviv University, intervened.
“Francois said ‘no way,’ we have to fight,” Hendler said. “I was really hoping to get a negative answer” to the false applications.
The president of the Louvre, the administrators of Sainte-Chapelle and the French authorities were “all shocked” when informed of Hendler’s difficulties, Heilbronn, who took up the academic’s cause, recalled in a conversation with the Post.
They “were horrified,” he recalled.
According to media reports, the Louvre blamed the incident on a faulty automatic booking system while the chapel’s internal investigation chalked up the rejection to human error.
“They said it was a mistake and not bad feelings against Israelis,” Heilbronn said.
Because both institutions are public ones, the police will be investigating as well, he added, stating his own personal opinion that he believed that “bad will” toward Israel was responsible for the incident.
“I think it’s a typical [case] of people in positions of power [discriminating] behind their anonymity as status as public officers. I hope I’m wrong. If not it’s terrible for France.”
France has a longstanding tradition of “universal access to culture” that Hendler said he cherishes, which is a “principle that the French have defended for centuries.”
And while he believes the Louvre was not trying to “whitewash” its rejection of his group, he said the chapel’s answers were “totally insufficient.”
“For their sake we would appreciate better answers,” he said.