Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tel Aviv Rabbanut Protests Forced Shabbos Afternoon Hotel Check-Out

Tel Aviv, Israel -- Shomer Shabbos Jews have struggled with hotel reservations in Tel Aviv for quite a while. Apparently, despite the patent inability of observant Jews to move out of their rooms before the end of Shabbos, Israeli hotels have insisted on afternoon check-out. Until now, tourists have been forced to choose between paying a significantly higher price, or cancelling their vacation and waiting in lobbies with their luggage until the stars appear. Now they are asking the local Tel Aviv Rabbanut to intercede.

In light of numerous complaints on this issue, the Tel Aviv Religious Council turned to the city’s Hotel Association and demanded that it change their current policies and allow guests to stay in their rooms until Shabbos ends. Although the Association insisted that around the world check-out is in the afternoon, the chairman of the religious council promised to "stop this shameful phenomenon.”

Peretz Dagan, a Kiryat Ata resident, asked Tel Aviv’s Chief Rabbi, R’ Yisrael Meir Lau, to work towards changing this policy as well. Dagan’s involvement began after an attempted stay in a Tel Aviv hotel over Shavuos. The hotel informed him on Erev Shavuos that he would have to vacate his room at 4 PM. “When we asked what we as religious people are to do, they told us that at 4 pm we should move our belongings, including money, phones etc. to another place in the hotel and wait until the holiday ends,” said Dagan. Although he canceled his stay, the experienced upset him deeply, and he turned to R’ Lau for help in remedying the situation.

Other tourists have similar gripes. Shmaya Greenfeld said that he was forced to pay NIS 400 (about $110) for an additional one and a half hours at the hotel. Another visitor who filed a complaint said, “The percentage of religious people is high, at times the hotels really rely on this population, they are loyal customers and I don’t understand this petty plotting. Kicking this population out for a few cents?”

In light of the many appeals, the Tel Aviv Rabbanut asked the city’s Hotel Association to clarify the issue. Eli Ziv, director-general of the Tel Aviv Hotel Association, responded by saying that “this issue is not an issue of keeping the Sabbath but rather of a proper reservation in exchange for a fee or a proper arrangement set with the hotel itself.”

He mentioned that all the hotels in Israel and in the world conduct their check-out in the afternoon and claimed that hotels receive guests at the end of Shabbos and thus, need to make arrangements and prepare the rooms beforehand. He therefore determined that there was no reason why guests should stay later if this was not arranged at the time of the reservation; a procedure known by Shomer Shabbos guests.

Eldad Mizrachi, who heads the Tel Aviv Religious Council, said, “I expect hotel owners to behave reasonably and appropriately towards tourists and hotel guests. It is unfathomable that Shabbat-keeping guests will be kicked out during Shabbos… It is important to emphasize that in the last few years, joint efforts have been made to bring religious tourism to the city which makes tens of thousands of reservations throughout the country,” he said. “It is a shame that monetary greed with no explanation or justice will harm these efforts. It is our intention to work opposite the necessary people in order to prevent this shameful phenomenon.”

Source: Y-net

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