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Arab-Israeli couple say restaurant denied their reservations based on race

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Arab-Israeli couple said an Israeli restaurant refused to give them reservations because they are Arab.

Sama and Muhamad Sufri of Tel Aviv said they tried to make a reservation late last week at one of their favorite restaurants, Soho in Rishon Lezion, using the Arab name Walid, but were told that the restaurant was full for the time that they wanted to eat. Minutes later when they called back and used a Hebrew name they were able to make a reservation for the same time.

The couple told Yediot Achronot that the same thing happened to them in May and also four years earlier, and at other times they dined at Soho, they went with Jewish friends who made the reservations.

Muhamad Sufri told the newspaper that he posted his experience on Facebook and learned that he and his wife were not the only ones who experienced difficulty making a reservation when using an Arab-sounding name.

The restaurant responded with a statement.

"Soho restaurant is one of the busiest restaurants in Israel. Hundreds of people call daily to make reservations, and the restaurant employs six receptions so as to deal with the demand," it said. "It is not uncommon that a customer will receive a negative reply when attempting to reserve a table because of lack of availability, while another one will receive a positive one a few minutes later because of a cancellation that happened in-between." 

"Mr. and Ms. Sufri are regular customers; they have at least four reservations to their name during the last few months, as well as other reservations made with friends. All of these reservations were registered with no problems. Soho believes in complete equality without prejudice against religion, creed or gender. Mr. and Ms. Sufri are always welcome at the restaurant."
 

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