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    On Jewish showers and refrigerators

    The following article by Rabbi Raymond Apple originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post on 17 August, 2017.

    The hotelier who has apologised for telling Jews to take a shower before swimming and not to want constant access to the refrigerators probably still doesn’t understand the resulting accusations of antisemitism.

    The shower issue sends shivers through us when we recall how the word “showers” figured in the armory of Holocaust horror.

    “Take a shower” resonates frighteningly with Jews. It doesn’t merely say, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

    If that was all it meant, it would already be an insult to a people that was instinctively practicing health and hygiene long before the gentiles cottoned on to the risks of infection and disease.

    If being clean was all it meant, it would already show complete ignorance of Jewish practices that led the world in medicine and sanitation.

    But what it says to Jews in modern- day Europe is that antisemitism is alive and well and no-one, not even the gentiles, is safe.

    And there are further implications.

    In the last year or two the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has picked up an idea that former foreign minister Tzipi Livni has smelly feet and turned it into an anti-Israel slogan.

    Calling Livni “smelly” has nothing to do with her personal cleanliness or any other Israeli’s.

    It is a medieval antisemitic stereotype that would be comical if it weren’t so serious. It comes from the time when medieval Christendom had an obsession with the devil. Since Jews refused to accept Jesus, they were seen as the devil incarnate and accused of heinous crimes against Christianity and mankind.

    Jews were simply not human beings. When Shakespeare wrote about Shylock and asked whether a Jew had hands, feelings or dignity, medieval man thought the answer was “no”. Jews were depicted with demonic characteristics. They looked horrible and menacing and were said to have a stench which was only removed by baptism. It was said that “their ill smell before baptism arises from the sordidness of their habits.”

    This is what is echoed in the attack on Livni. It is all nonsense, but there are still people gripped by inherited prejudice who deem Jews inherently inferior, with evil genes which can only be eradicated if the Jews themselves are eradicated.

    One would think that after the Holocaust, everyone would know that prejudice has social, economic and political roots, and no-one would be stupid enough to repeat the old “smelly” accusations.

    But stupidity is hard to eradicate.

    And hoteliers who speak about Jews taking showers owe us more than a politically correct apology.

    What about the question of Jews using the hotel refrigerators? Presumably the problem is that Jewish travelers automatically take kosher food with them when they visit places where kashrut facilities are scarce or non-existent.

    Actually it’s not only kosher-observing Jews who often need access to refrigerators. Diabetics too have their problems. And celiacs, and others with a range of food problems.

    There are hotels that provide in-room refrigerators, but in hotels where this doesn’t (yet) exist it is surely good customer service to allocate refrigerator space to people with special needs.

    Yes, there are times when such facilities are abused, like the vegetarian hotel where I once stayed and found that a Jewish family had come with their kosher salami and demanded to keep it in the hotel refrigerator.

    But as a general principle, a reasonable hotelier will recognise that their guests have needs and requirements that have to be recognised and facilitated.

    If hospital wards can allocate refrigerator space to patients’ food (including kosher items), why can’t a good hotel?

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