Two Israeli families, refused an accommodation booking in County Kerry because of their government's treatment of Palestinians, have now been offered a free Irish holiday by the Irish tourist board, Bord Fáilte.
Journalist Arik Bender and family, together with friends, had planned a three-week stay next summer at the four-star Lakeland Cottages in Killarney. But when he attempted to make the arrangements, proprietor Brian O'Shea told him he wasn't accepting any bookings from Israeli citizens, "in protest against what Prime Minister Sharon is doing to the Palestinians".
O'Shea, well known in Kerry tourism, insisted he wasn't anti-Jewish and claimed to be protesting on a matter of principle. But Bender, whose father had been a Holocaust survivor, said the refusal reminded him of "some dark days in Europe". He was "disappointed and upset" by it, and he and his family now intended to bypass Ireland and go to the Lake District instead.
Bord Fáilte, greatly embarrassed by the affair, has since intervened, offering the families an all-expenses-paid holiday in Ireland. Spokesman John Rafferty described the refusal as "an isolated incident" and the first of its kind. Irish tourism had been encouraging more business from Israel in recent years, he said. A new charter service was now operating between Tel Aviv and Dublin, with about 5,000 Israeli visitors a year coming to Ireland.
Meanwhile, a campaign of "a hundred thousand welcomes" has been launched in County Kerry to make amends to the Israeli journalist and his family. Local hotelier Sandra McDonald is inviting the public to send her "welcome" postcards addressed to Bender, which she will collect and eventually forward to him.
by Anthony Garvey
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 10-16 October 2002