RAMALLAH, July 26 (JMCC) - A grocery store located in a settlement in the Bethlehem area is blocking Palestinian baggers from working with Jewish cashiers after a rabbi complained about a rumored relationship, reports Haaretz
The Rami Levi supermarket chain has several branches in the West Bank that are frequented by Palestinians, despite calls to boycott Israeli settlement products. Many Palestinians also work at the stores, which is apparently controversial for right-wing Israelis.
The decision [to change working hours] followed a storm that arose in the Gush Etzion settlements after it was reported that a local girl working as a cashier had become romantically involved with one of the Palestinian baggers.
Workers at the supermarket and a leading local rabbi say the Palestinian worker was fired, but Levi denies that, saying, “He’s gone off to Jordan. When he returns, we’ll see.” The cashier quit on her own.
Ever since Rami Levi Shivuk Hashikma opened its Gush Etzion branch, it has been a source of local controversy. It is located near a gas station and not within a settlement, making it possible for Jewish and Arab shoppers to mingle freely. Most of the workers are Palestinians from the area, who handle deliveries, bag groceries and stack shelves. The cashiers are mostly young women from the settlements.
While there have been periodic media reports lauding the supermarket as an island of Palestinian-settler coexistence, right-wing groups and some locals have issued calls to boycott it, saying it was leading to inter-religious relationships. These campaigns did not fare well. In fact, the supermarket has been so crowded that small grocers in the area’s communities have started to fear for their business.
Over the past two weeks, however, after reports of the cashier-packer affair spread, Rabbi Gideon Perl, the rabbi of Alon Shvut, met with chain owner Levi and demanded that he take action to prevent a recurrence.
“There was an affair between a cashier and a bagger that nearly resulted in her leaving home,” Perl told Haaretz. “There was a plan to take her to his village.
“I was asked to talk to Rami Levi and his staff about the problem, and told them that one of the things we had feared when the store opened a year ago was exactly this.
“I’m pleased by the steps Rami Levi has taken. The Arabs don’t particularly like this [interreligious relationships] either, and it seems that Rami Levi understands the problem. The worker was fired and will not return. You need a whip to teach people a lesson after something like this happens.”