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May 22, 2016 10:52 pm

King David Hotel Manager Explains After Jewish Ensemble Asked to Remove Kippot So As Not to Offend Arab Audience

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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The entrance to the King David Hotel. Photo: Jerusalem Shots.

The entrance to the King David Hotel. Photo: Jerusalem Shots.

The general manager of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel ripped into the Hebrew press on Sunday for what he said was its distorted coverage of an “unfortunate” incident that occurred this weekend at the illustrious Israeli establishment.

“It saddens me to no end that everybody in this country, which I have devoted my life to serving, is out for blood,” Haim Shkedi told The Algemeiner.

This was in response to a query about an Army Radio report earlier in the day accusing Shkedi of banning all outward signs of Jewish observance among members of an ensemble that had been hired to perform at an event held for the Arab staff of the hotel.

According to Army Radio, knowing the audience would be predominantly Arab, Ensemble Inbalim prepared pieces by Arab composers, such as Umm Kulthum and Farid al-Atrash, whose music they thought the crowd would appreciate.

Half an hour before they went on stage, however, their manager, Noam Cohen, allegedly received a request from the hotel’s event organizer that the two members of the ensemble wearing skullcaps should remove them, so as not to “offend the sensibilities” of the audience. Cohen reportedly said he would not ask the players to remove their kippot, but came up with a compromise: the whole band, those with kippot and those without, would wear caps.

This did not suffice, according to the report, as halfway through the concert, Cohen received another directive from the hotel – that the tzitziot (traditional fringe worn by Orthodox Jewish men) of one of the players should be hidden inside his pants. At the end of the performance, Cohen confronted King David Hotel General Manager Haim Shkedi and recorded their conversation.

“I’m not ashamed of what I said, because it’s the truth,” Shkedi is heard defending himself on the recording. “At an event for Arabs, this is what you do? You do it on purpose [to shove it in their faces]?”

Cohen replied that the ensemble was not trying to offend anyone; that it plays for all kinds of audiences; and that if the situation had been reversed, he can’t imagine any Arab performers being told to remove signs of their religion.

Shkedi told The Algemeiner that the person who recorded the conversation failed to provide the whole story.

“Since we always hold toasts for our staff in honor of Jewish holidays, we  thought it would be only fitting to do the same for our Muslim employees ahead of Ramadan,” Shkedi explained. “I am never directly involved in the technicalities of such events, but I gave a few instructions to the organizers. I told them the menu should consist of traditional Arab food, that there should be no alcohol and that there should be an Arab band performing.”

According to Shkedi, he had had no idea that a Jewish ensemble was hired instead, until he came down from his office and saw them.

“They were wonderful,” he said. “But then I was told by one of our organizers that she was hearing complaints from members of the audience about the kippot. When the ensemble’s manager came up with the compromise that they would wear caps, I thought that was a great idea. I also thought it was the end of the story. So I returned to my office upstairs. Later, the ensemble manager came to me, hurling all kinds of accusations. I tried to explain to him that we wanted to make the workers feel comfortable and appreciated, which is why I wanted an Arabic band to begin with.”

Shkedi told The Algemeiner that he then went to the ensemble and personally apologized to them. “None of this was their fault,” he said. “It was our mistake for hiring them, even though they played beautifully. I wish the ensemble manager had bothered to get that part on tape. It hurts me to the core, on behalf of my children and grandchildren, that everyone is out to make others look bad. The idea that I or the King David Hotel would discriminate against Jews is utterly preposterous.”

The King David is Israel’s most renowned hotel, where heads of state and other dignitaries from all over the world have stayed. It was opened in 1931, well before the establishment of the state. Its food is strictly kosher, as it hosts many Orthodox guests.

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  • Eli Bienenstock

    These Arab workers who’s manager says were so offended by outwardly Jewish performers playing to them are preparing and serving your food at the King David hotel! How comforting and how safe.

  • Nathan Vogel

    If the Arab workers are not comfortable seeing kippot on the heads of people who are there to entertain them, maybe the King David Hotel is not the right place for them to work. Perhaps they might be more comfortable working in a hotel in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, lots and lots of places where they would not have to be exposed to the indignity of seeing a kippa or (horrors!) tzitzit.

  • The hotel and its manager were already acting graciously towards the Arab employees by providing a special date and event specifically for them, and providing specifically Arab food and specifically Arab music. Anyone might think that was something to show a little gratitude for. But that was not enough to engender some goodwill among some of the Arab employees? It wasn’t quite Judenrein enough in its presentation, in their place of work? Were the band mocking them by wearing their own normal attire? Maybe all the Jews should have exited the building, a la Gaza, and put the Arab employees in charge. (We all know how well THEY treat Jews when they are in charge.) Let’s just face it: the Jews show such a lack of sensitivity!

  • art frank

    Why is this schmuck sucking up to the arabs? They’re employed by Jews. If they don’t like seeing Jews wearing Jewish garb, they should quit their jobs and work for arabs (fat chance). I don’t like guilt ridden Jews who cater ti those who despise them. Reminds me of the US Jews like Leonard Bernstein who had a party for Jew hating black panthers. Whats the matter with these people???

  • roy wise

    Perhaps as well on Independance day the hotel manager will play funeral music for the Arab staff to avoid offending their feelings for living in a Jewish state and ban all Jews from the hotel.

  • Golum…

    If these arabs worked for this JEWISH HOTEL in this JEWISH COUNTRY…..
    What’s the BEEF???

    The Band played Arab music for them NOT Hava Nagila…So a couple Yarmulka’s & someone was wearing Tzitzis that was a big nothing!!!
    If these arab employees really complained about that in the King David In Israel
    than they should be told…”Go have your own celebration in Gaza Next Year”!!!

  • nelson marans

    Whose land is it anyway? I thought that the 1948 war had decided that. Disgraceful, it is enough that Jews are afraid to wear kippots in France without bowing to the sensibilities of Israeli Arabs in their native country.

  • dan ehrlich

    This is both sad and stupid…first, since Arabs and Jews work together at the hotel, I can’t see why anyone would be offended…But, the sad part is if Arab co workers can’t accept someone else’s customs, what does that say about any future peace and acceptance between Arabs and Israelis.

  • stevenl

    He must be a leftist secular!
    Shame on him if he imposed a kippot-free event in Israel!

    • Conrad

      Arab’s working for Jews, in a Jewish hotel in the Jewish state are sensitive to signs of Jewish observance? And the Jewish hotel manager acts to accommodate the Arab sensitivity? The hotel manager should have seen that his Arab workers faced the reality of the Jewish state of Israel, not ask his fellow Jews to hide their signs of observance. Since he could not do that, fire the bum!

  • Suzanne

    It was offensive and and incredible insensitive to all Jewish people.In their country in a hotel where these Muslems work and are exposed to skill caps daily, as well as a variety of religious symbels from the guests they care for in employment in one of the worlds famous hotels.
    The manager made a serious mistake,he is unsuitable for this position.

  • brenrod

    shkedi proved that the accusations were correct, that he is wrong…. perhaps he would do better in a jewish state to consider jewish sensibilities… the matter should never have been broought up by the hotel, the hotel should be shut down until their staff are trained in sensibilities to jews.

  • manley kiefer

    Much ado about nothing. You would think that they have more important matters to take care of in these times of crisis. Politics raises its ugly head once more.

  • Yankovich

    Whoever among the event organizers allowed the Jewish entertainers, some Orthodox, to be hired, disobeyed what he/she was told and should be reprimanded. It’s that simple.

  • Benjamin Sherr

    Nothing like living as a Jew in Russia…. oops that was Ukraine… maybe Nazi Germany.. no ? Jerusalem. Shameful.
    OMG, poor Shkedi, he had to apologize to a Jew for being Jewish in Israel. What the heck is happening to any resemblance of Jewish pride?

  • This incident makes me want to puke and Mr. Shkedi should be dismissed from the employ of the hotel.

  • Zahavit Gorodin

    Kippot should never be. A Question. In Israel they can were a kipah anywhere, it is not Europe that they have to hide being Jewish. King David, a problem as such is a disgrace.

  • Can this fool and let the real Israelis thrive

    Can this fool and let the real Israelis thrive

  • This is King David’s Hotel????

    This is King David’s Hotel????

  • I wonder if the arab muslim workers complain because their paychecks are drawn on an Israeli bank or their tips come from people wearing kippot. Get over it muslims; you live in the world; you don’t own it. Quit whining and be grateful your employer sees fit to honor you on your holiday. What bores you are–pun intended.

  • brochin

    Its only a Jewish country, so next time they should hide the Star of David, so as not to offend Arabs. In fact they should ban the name King David since he was a Jew. Perhaps the hotel management could rename it Al Quds Hotel, so as not to offend any Arabs!

  • ASwitzer

    There should never have been any request to remove kippot or hide tzizit nor to not hire this band. Israel is MultiFaith, multicultural. The Muslim employees work along with Jewish employees, and serve guests from all faiths and cultures. It makes no sense to deny this or discriminate in any small way. The wearing of kippot doesn’t make an Arab u comfortable. The complainant is saying the presence of Jews makes him uncomfortable, so he’s welcome to leave. He’s welcome not to work for a Jewish establishment or to accept gifts from his Jewish manager.

  • Yaakov

    From a Jewish standpoint, values such as quality, demonstrated accomplishments, and integrity are what is important, not how well known (renowned) something or someone is.

  • Andrew

    So he is saying that the Muslims there all hate Jews and we need to capitulate to that. Or the manager is just an idiot and it wouldn’t have bothered of them. Either way the manager is an idiot.

  • Hannah

    This to me is not an explanation at all. Rather he’s underlining his thinking that Jews offend Arabs and shouldn’t be Jewish around them, which is preposterous.

  • theo

    I find this unbelievable !
    This man should be sacked on the spot !
    Maybe he is delusional He surely does not realize he is in Israel
    Why must everyone genuflect to Islam
    Is it not time that as they expect others to respect them ,they should show a basic tolerance and respect for others
    I was always told Muslims respect Jews who adhere to their religion and scorn those who do not
    It appears I was misinformed

  • nat cheiman

    If people dont like kippot then its their problem.Quite frankly, I would have told them to go to hell.

  • Steve Wenick

    Haim Shkedi no one made you look bad; you only have yourself to blame. The fact that you do not understand the error of your decision is a testament to how clueless you really are. Shame on you.

  • Neil

    The event took place in Israel and if arabs don’t like Israeli dress or faith they are free to leave the country. The hotel manager should be replaced with someone who is proud to be and defend Israel and not someone who merely verbalizes their support as an after thought. Why does the entire planet seem hell-bent on placating the arab world?

  • does this mean all signs of Jewishness must be removed before entering the King David Hotel, so as not to offend the Arab staff. Do they take tips from Kippah wearing men?

  • Ilana

    This is just so so wrong. Nobody should be asked to remove their religious wear. No matter what. If the arab workers feel insulted by a kippah, that is anti semitic and they ought to be told so at the very least. This really pisses me off. I would never ask a religious person to remove their religious wear as it would never insult me. How racist and sickening. Shame a zillion times over.

  • Mordecai Ben Natan

    The hotel manager was wrong.

    How dare he tell the band to remove yarmulkas and hide tzitzit

    Would he have told Arab Muslims to remover their head covering “because it offends the Jews?”

    He should publically appologise for what he did

  • Simon Seaberg

    What a disgrace,the manager should be removed.I am not religious but this is the only Jewish country in the world.If anyone is offended by such minor things such as wearing a kippa or showing the fringes of his talith,the door is always open for those who want to leave.This constant denigration of Jewish customs in order not to offend the Muslims is ridiculous. It is about time that they take note of Jewish sensibilities for a change.

  • The idea that the Jewish Ensemble Ibrahim prepared with pieces by Arab composers, such as Umm Kulthum and Farid al-Atrash, whose music they thought the predominant Arab crowd would appreciate. But
    they met with an obstacle as two of them wore his kippah.

    If an Arab Ensemble would have played Israeli music to toast a Jewish holiday it would have gone without saying that they were wearing their national dress, for example, their checkered headdress. And if they had been playing Israeli toasts in their national dress for example in their checkered headdress what would have happened? I hope nothing, as they gave respect to each other to play the others’ music and wearing their national dress, is appropriate and nice.

    What is more important that the Arabian could play Israeli songs or wear the checkered headdress? Only the old joke occurs to my mind: „when the little rabbit who received a smack in face when he didn’t wear his cap but he received a smack when he wore his cap.”

  • I do not understand why anyone anywhere should as someone NOT to wear their kippot! I feel that is as outrageous as ordering some woman NOT to cover her hair or for a Sikh to remove his turban or a Scotsman not to wear a kilt as it looks kind of gay. I can’t imagine how warped the event planner has become. It makes me think of some Papers I recently read made public after some time, of the British reports on the 1920 Arab Riots. One comment was that Jews Provoked, to a certain extent, by singing Jewish songs including the Anthem and by creating a Hebrew University. WHAT? This attitude surely Must change and people have to accept there IS an Israeli State (just as Jordan was created 1946-League of Nations or Pakistan out of India 1948. (after many riots and bloodshed plus about a million Indians having to leave their homes.) But is Jordan accepted today? Is Pakistan accepted? I wish USA would tell Saudi and all Arabized Muslims plus Iran, France, Britain Sweden ECT that it is PAST time to grow up and accept Israel & stop their incredible Nonsense and singling out to persecute (and strip Israel of Judea) I hope NO ONE in that band stooped to something no one else would ever even be asked to. This is MY Opinion from USA.

  • Michael Abramowitz

    It is disgusting that we need to be concerned with offending the Arabs who are staff at the hotel. If they have hostility to Jews, they need not work there, or live in Israel for that matter. If they are unhappy with living in a Jewish country,
    there are a number of Arab cesspool countries in which they can choose. We will drop them in any one they wish to live in. I am sick and tired of giving them their “safe place”. If the Arabs of Israel do not appreciate the kindness we show them every day, let them leave and see how their sensibilities are handled by their co religioinsists.

  • len

    The more you read about this incident the worse Shkedi sounds ,he should just shut up!So Muslim employees in Israel resent entertainers of Jewish descent with kippas and tzizis performing for them.Even if they were good?Well no insult was intended and if you dont like the entertainment for whatever reason you have the option to leave!Why make a fuss?Can you imagine if a European crowd complained about their entertainment wearing kippas or tzizit?How thwt would get slammed in the press!Another pass for Muslims,who wants to complain and be seen Islamophobic.Maybe this is an example of why we need to be Islamophobic!

  • Jeannette

    I can not agree with the manager. He should not have pandered to the racism of some of his employees.

    Try reversing the situation: He has a party for his Jewish employees in honor of Tu B’shvat. He provides traditional foods and enough wine for them to say kiddush. And he hires a band – an Arab band – to entertain them. The band make sure to play traditional Jewish songs, but some of the band members are wearing keffiyas. Some of his employees object to the keffiyas. Would he (or his event manager) have told the band members to remove their keffiyas or would he have told his employees to be more tolerant?

  • yes, he could have simply asked all the arabs to don their bds keffiyas, ottoman tassels, and shiah skullcaps — and the women their hijabs et al, and everyone to put name tags on them so you know who’s who and who isnt anyone… maybe he should keep a closet full of headgear for such tender situations? as for ‘preposterous’ in this nutty world unfortunately little is, and dealing with the mid east nothing is. and he knows that too. that’s how he got and keeps his / her/ its (next time robots please) job.

  • Arthur Alexander

    It appears that practicing Jews are being oppressed by their own people in deference to Arab patrons at a landmark Jerusalem hotel – utterly indefensible
    I would urge all practicing (orthodox) Jews to boycott the King David Hotel – cancel all upcoming affairs and holiday bookings for sukkot and Pesach.
    I wonder what pennance can be performed to restore their status? Is anything being proffered by this transgressor. At a time, apropos lag Baomer when there was a respite in the deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s 12,000 pairs of students who all died for disrespecting each other, what will now follow ?

  • Israel is a democracy just like America.
    Arab workers wear their head covers both here and in Israel in open and closed areas .( Israeli and American hospitals to be specific).
    Tolerance is a two way street and religious garb is part of the individuals choice.
    Mr.Shkedi needs sensitivity training.

  • mika

    This kind of outrageous idiocy needs to end. The general manager of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel should be fired. And anyone else with similar ideas should be as well.

  • I actually agree: quite odd to hire a Jewish band for a Muslim cultural event.

    • Well, I think it was lovely that an Israeli band was hired to play and that they prepared the program for their Arab audience. It speaks of a gesture of friendship. This is an Israeli hotel they work for. How lovely of the hotel to treat their staff to such a beautiful reception replete with Arab foods and drink. The manager was trying to do the right thing and made a very bad judgement. The Arab employees who complained were invited guests of the hotel, the Israeli Hotel, and it was rude of any of them not to accept the lovely gesture. The door was open if they were so insulted.

    • Tania.

      Nothing wrong. I am sure sometimes Jews listen too Arab bands So?

  • B”H Jewish anti semitism is the worst kind. How do you teach tolerance when you have behavior like the manager exhibited. The fact that a Jewish band can perform Arab music “wonderfully” is a great opportunity to teach tolerance which was clearly missed by this pompous manager.

  • When Jews in their own homeland are oppressed by their own government in order to appease some other group, then, that is apartheid and an abomination. Where, then, can Jews go and be Jews? So sick of the state’s treatment of its Jewish citizens

  • Frances Weingarten

    Haim Shkedi’s behaviour in regard to asking those men in the ensemble who were wearing kippot and/or tsitsiot to remove or hide them was appalling. There is no need to be so obsequious as to cater to so-called Arab sensibilities. Would Arabs be asked to wear suits and ties rather than traditional garb when Jewish people were present? Of course not! We are in Israel not in some Arab country where some adaptations might need to be made. He should be ashamed of himself and should offer those men an apology for his inexcusably offensive behaviour.

  • EllenL

    He DID discriminate. Rub WHAT exactly in their faces? That Jews are entertaining them? Were these Arabs dressed in western clothing or did they wear Arabic apparel? I bet they wore at least one item that would identify them as Muslim. I could tell they were Muslim by their complaint to hotel management. Their hubris puts the ancient Greeks to shame.