Naomi Ragen: Blood tourism
By Naomi Ragen
What would people say if someone came up with the following idea:. Let's rebuild the World Trade Center Restaurant and then people from all over the world can eat their lunch and dinner there as a sign of their "solidarity with the victims."
Now, let's take it a step further. Give the ownership of this restaurant to the FBI agents who deliberately ignored all the warning signs that an attack was in the works, thus making it possible for it to happen. In that way, the agents can make some money out of the blood of the victims that their negligence helped to kill.
Sound horrible? I agree. But that is exactly what is happening here in Israel as the Israel Bonds and other fundraising groups bring groups of potential donors to the Park Hotel in Netanya, scene of the Passover Massacre, for luncheons and dinner sessions.
The owners of the Park Hotel ignored police directives to all hotels in Netanya to have at least two security guards for Seder night and hired only one inexperienced guard at the last minute, and then told him to "make rounds" every 45 minutes, in effect directing him to leave the entrance to the hotel completely unguarded. Interviews with the terrorist who was scheduled to blow himself up on the second floor of the hotel (where I sat with my husband and children) but changed his mind because he didn't feel well (!) revealed that the Park Hotel had not been singled out. The terrorists were going to find the least protected place and go there. That was the Park Hotel.
A week before Passover, I had called the Park Hotel and asked them what security they were planning to have. The receptionist said she'd ask, and I heard someone laugh and say: tell her four guards. Are four enough for her?" And then the receptionist returned to the phone and said: "Three guards."
When I got there, there was only one, and he didn't check anyone, and he wasn't standing by the door. At seven-fifteen I saw him get up and walk away from the entrance and go into the dining area. Alarmed, I hurriedly took my family upstairs. At seven-twenty, a bomb blew the Park Hotel apart.
Numerous times since Passover, I have been contacted by the Bonds people and asked to return to the Park Hotel and give a lecture to Bonds solidarity groups, or leadership groups from the States and Canada about my "experience" over a meal. I cannot imagine anything in worst taste, or more hurtful to me and the other victims than this misguided attempt to fundraise on the blood of innocents, and the fact that the Park owners are now making a buck serving their bad food to well-meaning but misguided people, who are letting them make a profit on their criminal negligence which cost dozens of people their lives, and hundreds their mental and physical well-being.
I admit, I have a particular ax to grind with the Park Hotel owners and their manager Eric Cohen. They refused to return the deposits of people like my 90 year old father-in-law without him signing a waiver, and they talked him into doing it behind my back. They also accused me and my family of "continuing to party" the night after the massacre, because we went back to our hotel-- The Four Seasons (which had excellent security)-- and with great heartbreak, made a seder. I think they are particularly low human beings, and deserve no sympathy or support for a disaster that they themselves contributed to.
Am I being harsh? Perhaps. But the last time I was in Netanya, I went to a restaurant around the corner from the Park Hotel. It had a security guard, a turnstile, its' door were bolted, and a second security check was done to all patrons before allowing them to enter. As I went back to my car, I looked across the street to the Park Hotel. It's been completely refurnished. All the blood has been washed away, and the insurance money has bought new glass. Everything, it seems, has gone back to normal. Including the security. I saw no guard at the door to the Park Hotel, and people going in and out with no one checking.
I ask you all to contact Israel Bonds and let them -- and other organizations that are planning similar "solidarity" tours-- to avoid blood tourism. The Park Hotel doesn't deserve support. Its victims do.
I fully support Israel Bonds. It's a most worthy way to invest in Israel's future. But their methods need an overhaul.
If you'd like to mention this to your local Israel bonds office, you can find their e-mail and phone number according to your region at :
To send e-mail to Israel bonds: webmaster@Israelbonds.com
Please, friends. Every time people come from the States and eat a meal the Park Hotel they are desecrating the memory of the victims, and hurting their families. Believe me. I am in touch with many of the people who lost their loved ones there, and I speak in their name as well as my own.