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Israeli public swimming pool separates Jewish and Palestinian citizens

Swimming pool at the Meridian Hotel in Eilat, Southern Israel as seen on April 19, 2010 [Avishai Teicher / Wikipedia]
Swimming pool at the Meridian Hotel in Eilat, Southern Israel as seen on April 19, 2010 [Avishai Teicher / Wikipedia]

A public swimming pool in southern Israel has “separate hours” for Jewish and Palestinian citizens, “a practice that is undeclared but nevertheless familiar to visitors”, reported Haaretz.

The pool in question is located in Mabu’im, a community settlement operated by the Merhavim Regional Council. According to Haaretz, citing an employee, the pool has activities for the local Bedouin Palestinians during the week after 6pm, and on Friday night.

“There is a tacit agreement here”, a resident of Mabu’im said. “Bedouin will not enter the pool when there are Jews because the residents threatened to stop coming”.

The paper explains that “the separation is the result of the pool establishing designated hours during which only members may use the pool, even though this is not specified in its regulations”, adding that “several members of a Bedouin family who tried to use the pool on Saturday were refused entry based on this condition”.

However, “a resident of Be’er Sheva said she and her family have visited the pool on Saturdays for years despite not having membership – and that the staff never checked whether she is a local resident”.

Adel Hamamdeh, one of those Palestinian citizens denied entry on Saturday, told Haaretz: “They told me I couldn’t enter, that I could only enter after 6 P.M. because I am Bedouin”.

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He added that “while an employee told him that entry was for members only, he observed people entering after paying a fee”.

One pool employee told Haaretz “that the separation occurs and that it is needed because of ‘differences in mentality’ between Bedouin and Jewish visitors”.

MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) said he would call for an investigation into the matter. “The separation of those who arrive at the pool on the basis of nationality is illegal and immoral”, he said.

“Anyone who invents justifications and cloaks this separation in claims of ‘cultural suitability’ will end up sinking into apartheid”, he added.

“I will appeal to the attorney general to open a criminal investigation against the owners and operators of the pool and against public places that separate Jews and Arabs. Such separation is against the law that prohibits discrimination in public services”.

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