The Internet is in an uproar following a post about a pizzeria in Jerusalem, where a worker apparently refused service to a customer because he was gay. The post, published by Sammy Kanter, an American student who came to Israel for a year of studies, was published on Friday and received hundreds of shares and reactions, and comments calling for boycotting the place.
“Today, for the first time in my life, I was denied service at a pizza store for being who I am,” Kanter wrote. According to him, he walked into a pizzeria called “Ben Yehuda 2” with a group of friends, wearing a white tank top with a rainbow-colored text on it. He was asked whether he was gay, and when he said yes, he was thrown out of the store and was denied service.
We managed to get hold of the owner of the pizzeria, Naomi Gold, for a brief conversation, and she explained that she and her partner Naphtali were absent from the pizzeria over the weekend for a vacation and were forced to end it and go back to Jerusalem in order to sort out the issue.
According to Gold, the employee’s version is completely different from Kanter’s: “We’ve discussed with the employee and according to what he told us he was closing the place for Shabbat, and because the place is small and was supposedly loaded he asked one of the group members to stay inside and make the order while the rest waited outsid. Apparently they misunderstood it.”
Since the incident, Gold has received numerous inquiries and comments, and she and her partner are now planning to find out more about what happened, including checking the security cameras. “If such a thing indeed happened, it is immediate firing,” Gold told us. “We condemn this thing, we have no problem with this community or with anyone else for that matter. There’s no such thing at our place, it doesn’t matter who walks in – we serve everyone”. In addition, she said, she turned to Kanter and asked to talk to him, but did not receive a response.
Kanter, who came to Israel to study Reform rabbinate, has meanwhile turned to the Reform and Religion Center, and through attorney Orly Erez Lachovsky, filed a claim and demanded compensation of NIS 50,000 from the pizzeria. According to attorney Erez Lachovsky, this is a serious case of refusal to provide public service because of sexual orientation, which contravenes the law prohibiting discrimination in products and services.
“As far as we’re concerned this is a law that states that everyone can receive service, regardless of religion, gender and race,” she explains, ” and here it’s a clear case that the worker refused to serve – and no doubt violated the law. We sent a letter today asking for payment of compensation, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s the worker or the owner. The employee is the public face of the place, and the responsibility under the law rests with the owner, the manager and the service provider, with the intention that the public will receive equal service. If we do not receive the compensation we will go to legal proceedings.”
According to attorney Erez Lachovsky Kanter is still very upset about the incident. “He was shocked,” she says. “He came to the campus in Jerusalem a month and a half ago, and unfortunately this was the reception he received in Israel. Therefore it is important to convey a clear message that this is illegal and that for such serious behavior there are consequences. ”