Monday, October 24, 2005
Paradise Mombassa -Translated and introduced by Gilad Atzmon
On 22 November 2002, Hotel Paradise Mombassa, an Israeli Hotel in Kenya, was attacked by a group of terrorists. The following Maariv piece isn’t concerned with Al Qa’eda, but rather with the devastation the Israelis left behind.
This is the story of a beautiful Israeli hotel on the African seashore. It is the story of an Israeli owned holiday resort in Mombassa, Kenya, designed and built solely for the Israeli tourist market. It is also the story of total abuse of the local impoverished population. It is a tale of humiliation, cruelty and continuous daily rape of struggling African women. It is the usual horrendous story of Israelis inflicting pain on others but at times it is very funny in spite of itself. For instance, once a week, when the Israeli groups were departing in busses on their way back to the Mombassa terminal, the local crew ordered the African staff to chase their departing busses with tears in their eyes and to scream ‘please don’t leave us, we love you, please come back’. This bizarre instruction was given to the local crew by the Israeli hotel management as part of the package deal, the last image to bring home of an unforgettable holiday. I allow myself to assume that the Israeli managers detected some clear yearning for love amongst their Israeli clients. One may ask what may stand in the core of such a longing for declarations of love. Considering the clear fact that those Israeli tourists were mainly engaged in turning Mombassa into Hell on earth, why do they really need to feel beloved after all that? I wonder why the Israeli offender insists upon being loved by his victim? Ordinary human beings do not expect to be loved by their hotel receptionists or room cleaners. But then, ordinary human beings do not tend to humiliate, abuse and rape hotel staff. They may spend some time in the hotel, they may enjoy its services and then they just pay and leave politely and quietly. For the Israeli tourists, as you will soon read, staying in the hotel is a clear ‘letting go’. It is the ideal environment to manifest one’s darkest libidinal impetus and practice total denial of any moral conduct. For the Israeli tourist, holiday is the materialisation and embodiment of their control zeal. For the Israelis, as you will read shortly, to go to for a holiday in Africa is to experience the varied possibilities of becoming a very wild animal.
The following journalistic piece is a glimpse into some Israeli pathological psychotic conditions. It is a bizarre story of an absurd criminal identity that demands affection from its victims. The story wasn’t written by myself, I just translated it into English. It originally appeared only in Hebrew in Maariv, Israel’s 2nd biggest daily paper. I spent time translating it because I do believe that is rather crucial to permit people outside of Israel a better understanding of the Israeli character and characteristics. Seemingly, some amongst us tend to believe that the Israeli approach towards the Palestinians is the outcome of specific colonial circumstances. Apparently, they are wrong. Israeliness is a radical form of blind cruelty and the Israelis have no problem taking it with them wherever they go. In Palestine it would be the Palestinians who suffer, in Goa it is the poor Indians. In the following story it is the deprived labour force of Mombassa, Kenya who confronts Israeli sadism. There is an old and famous saying, ‘you can take the man out of Israel but you can never take Israel out of the man’. You may want to take a nice deep breath before you read what the men of Israel are up to.
Fear and Contempt in Heaven
Omri Hasenheim, Kenya
In hotel Paradise Mombassa, crew members were humiliated by the Israeli tourists, it’s no surprise that even after the 2002 terror attack on the hotel, they refuse to forgive, not Al-Qa’eda but rather us (the Israelis).
It is standing on the white sand that is apparently more beautiful than ever. The luxury buildings invite you for a ‘dream of a break’, the rooms and the suites are loaded with exceptional handmade wooden furniture. In between the restored buildings you find a stream with golden fishes. At the bar you can hear the echo of some laidback African beat. All around the gigantic swimming pool you can see many monkeys jumping around. From the dining room windows you can see the magnificent sea-view. On your way to the dining room you may want to visit the alligator pool, clearly the alligator grew a bit since that horrible day of terror.
Welcome to Heaven, Hotel ‘Paradise Mombassa’
At just a kilometre from there, in a Msomrini village, two orphan girls are making dreadlocks for each other. Not far behind them, an isolated miserable mud shed is standing, all around poorly clothed toddlers are playing. They are dirty, their noses are dripping. A few broken stools are spread around. On one of them, Dama Safaria is sitting. Before Al Qa’eda blew up the very little she had, she used to work as a dancer at the hotel. For two years she danced traditional African folk dances, something that helped her to forget the misery she was born into. In Msomrini, everyone was happy to dance for just $2 a day. In the beginning Dama was rather happy, but then, as time went by, the Israeli employers realised that they could probably get away without paying. After the performances, her husband used to march from the village to the hotel to beg for her wages. “We loved to dance for the Israelis,” says Dama, “but then once the payment day arrived our smiles would fade away.”
On the morning of 22 November 2002, Al Qa’eda terrorists attacked at the hotel. Once the explosion went off, it didn’t take long before Dama realised that her husband was missing. She was horrified, a few minutes later she was told that he was killed. Since then, she is struggling on her own to maintain herself and her nine orphans. Her youngest son is just four years old. From the hotel management she heard nothing. No one came to visit or even just to offer condolences. Neither the Israeli Government nor Kenyan officials have shown any interest. “We, the dancing company, are still owed $120 for the last four performances in front of those Israeli tourists,” she claims in despair.
“After the terror attack my life became impossible. In the winter I beg for the farmers to cultivate our land for literally pennies,” in the summer she herself doesn’t realise how she makes it.
Two month ago ‘Paradise Mombassa’ was reopened under a new management comprised of one Israeli, one French and one American. They try to minimise their exposure, very much like the previous Israeli owner Yeuda Sulami who denies to this day his involvement with the previous management. The new management does its utmost to change the hotel’s image, they are trying to leave the Israeli market behind. Instead they aim to appeal to European and American markets.
But for many locals, this new business face lift won’t make a big difference, the memory of those very years of total abuse by Israeli tourists and management is not going to fade away. They won’t forget the Israeli guests that sexually assaulted them or were just rude and arrogant. They won’t forget the Israeli management who came along with some bizarre professional demands, failing to pay their monthly wages on time and eventually just stopped paying altogether. Now, maybe out of hope, or just the will to open their hearts, they are giving their personal account of ‘Paradise Mombassa’.
The idea to erect an Israeli hotel on Kenya’s seashore in the late 1990’s was proved to be ingenious. Until then, Kenya was famous for its wild Safari adventures. Yeuda Sulami and his business partner Itzik Mamman came up with the idea of using Kenya as an Israeli holiday resort. They founded a company and started to sell holiday packages including flights, accommodation and local tourist adventures. In the beginning, they were buying accommodation services from local companies. But the Israeli appetite knows no limit. ‘Why don’t we make the big money ourselves’ asked the two, ‘we shall build our hotel on the beach.’ Soon, they joined forces with local investors and founded a company based on ‘time sharing’ holiday rentals for Israelis. The Israeli client reacted enthusiastically, at the end of the day it was: a beautiful hotel offering sunny beaches at the time of the Israeli winter, complete with a flourishing cheap sex industry and just four and a half hours’ flight time from Tel Aviv.
The leitmotif that guided Sulami and Maman was that the Israeli guest who may come to Kenya once would return. Thus the promotion packages were sold ridiculously cheap. It all worked out perfectly well. Many Israelis returned and invested in holiday accommodation (one Israeli bought 52 holiday units for the sum of $1.5 million). Every week 250 Israelis landed at Mombassa airport, they found an Israeli hotel, it was fully Kosher and it even had a proper synagogue.
The hotel started to operate in the year 2000 and was officially launched a year later. Local crew was recruited from surrounding hotels. Most workers admit that in the beginning they were rather happy, but things deteriorated rapidly soon after the official opening. Rather soon it was clear that someone was about to pay for the Israeli extravaganza.
Man should never be Alone
Three years later, the humiliating practice is left like an open wound in the memory of the female hotel crew veterans. Once a week, just when the Israelis where checking out on their way back to the airport, a bell rang. ‘Get ready, the guest are leaving,’ announced the head of the entertaining team, frantically chasing the female crew. They were all ordered to gather near to the entrance gate and to chase the leaving busses while weeping desperately in front of the Israelis. Once they caught up with the busses they would bang on its metal frame with tears dropping from their eyes.
“It was a bizarre order,” giggled Saline Aching, the chief masseuse. “We were told to chase the bus, to sing and cry so the guests would know that we love them and want them to come back. I remember myself running like in a frenzied state, I would hit the bus with my fists shouting to the guests, ‘why do you leave us?’ ‘We miss you’, ‘We love you’. The Israelis would stare at us from the windows, some of them believed us to be genuine, others were shooting us with their video cameras. ”
Rahima Josef Katan: “If you were not crying you may find yourself in danger of losing your job. We were asked to think of something bad that happened to us, so we can cry for real. I didn’t cry.” “I didn’t cry,” Confesses Catherine Khaa, masseuse. “How could I, I didn’t love them at all. I fact I hated them.”
The weekly bus chasing was just one example of the way the staff were supposed to treat the Israeli guests. The principles were obvious: humiliation, stripped of dignity and hard labour. The guidelines were clear: The client is always right, the client must be happy, the client must return. The ones who carried most of the burden were the females amongst the entertainment team. Dorothy Maly recollects that once a week, on the arrival day, five of them would be taken to Mombassa airport. “We used sing to them Jambo Jambo (hello hello) and Evenu Shalom Aleichem. The local Kenyans were sure that we had had lost it but the Israelis were over the moon. They loved noise, once we arrived at the hotel, again we started singing loudly. In the night we were instructed by the manager to scream till the last Israeli leaves the dance floor. If a guest decides not to go to sleep, you were required to stay with him till he quits to his room. We were demanded to produce noise almost 24 hours a day. When we took a break, the manager would come and bark: ‘What’s the matter with you, do you fall asleep? I will cut your wage, move on…’.”
The agenda dictated from above was that a bored guest would never return. Rahima Raymond, masseuse: “We were doomed to sit with the guests till the small hours, to hang around with them. Sulami made it clear that we must keep the guests happy. We were dancing with the men in nightclubs just to make sure that they weren’t staying alone. In case we refused to do so, they would complain to the management: ‘Why don’t they come out with us?’ ‘We want to see the African night life’. They obviously didn’t care about our commitments and family life. Obviously, we didn’t get any ‘extra’ for those services. The day after, while they were still in bed we had to start again at eight in the morning. The slogan ‘the client is always right’ took over. Josef Katan: “they taught us a behavioural code, if a man is near to his wife we were supposed to hold his hand in a certain way, if his wife wasn’t around then we should behave rather differently.”
“There were religious Jews who couldn’t sign the room service notes on the Jewish Sabbath. We would then keep a note with their room number attached to their bill. Once Sabbath was over, some of them would just refuse to pay. They would argue that we invented it all, ‘you forged our signatures’, they would say. The management would always believe them and expect us to cover their bills. I just couldn’t believe that humans can behave as such.”
To se seen like an African
The ever-growing demand to entertain the Israeli guests enforced a maximised utilisation of the local workforce. The crew were mobilised from the many different departments to the entertainment team. “They could pool me out of the kitchen, telling me that the guests want to have a good time and I should go and hang out with them,” says Josef Katan. “ I would then ask, how can I bake cookies and dance simultaneously? The entire hotel was as an entertainment squad. The kitchen stuff were entertainers, the receptionists were entertainers, gardeners were entertainers.” Mali, a dancer: “Saline, the chief masseuse would give us a shout when too many Israelis wanted a massage at the same time. At the time I knew nothing about massage. There was a woman that was brought over by the hotel’s rabbi and she was supposed to teach us. After a short instruction of five minutes I was apparently ready to have a go.”
In order to maintain ‘authentic African spirit’ the staff was obliged to put on very minimal clothes. Unlike the other hotels in the vicinity, where men were serving in uniform, in Paradise Mombassa the male crew were walking around half naked and with bare feet. The females were allowed just a minimal fabric on their breasts and pubes. “Even when temperatures dropped we were not allowed to cover ourselves.” Marci Mawagambo Aching said: “Sulami wanted us to look ‘authentic’ so when you walk around, the guests can check you out for the night. You must be attractive so they re-book another holiday. It was horrible, but what can you do? I needed the money. One of the Israeli female managers told us that we better follow Sulami’s orders, if he wants us too look like Africans, we better look like ones.”
Even most basic conditions were lacking. ‘Paradise Mombassa’ is located 8 kilometres from the main road. The dirt track to the hotel passes through a wild savannah loaded with outlaws. But then a solution was found, a truck originally built to transport livestock was converted to transport forty humans. An Israeli employee says, “it was a truck with a sealed cargo wagon without benches. People were so squeezed in that we had to leave the back door open.” Josef Katan: “We felt like animals. Sometimes we were left with no oxygen, but we knew that if we complained we would then asked to stay in the hotel. That would obviously mean we would not be able to see our families. So we kept quiet.” Once a newly appointed manager asked how the Kenyans felt about the manner in which they were transported. The answer was rather clear, ‘for them it doesn’t matter, as long as they are delivered to their work they are happy.’
Even for meals during the working hours, local crew were left to fend for themselves. But then a creative solution was found. Aching: “there were times when Sulami was kind and let us eat the guests’ leftovers. We were lucky because the Israelis are greedy, they would go to the buffet and put on their plates far more than their bodies can take. They would take piles of salads, and massive chunks of meat, but then, they would barely touch it and leave most of it behind.” Mali: “If to tell the truth, we could see that the food was already on someone else’s plate, but some of us had to eat it, just because they couldn’t afford to buy somewhere else. They where hungry, what could they do?”
But it goes further. It didn’t take long before the local crew realised that they were not insured. It was clearly revealed after a security man was murdered and his colleague was wounded during a burglary, till this day, neither the grieving family nor the wounded man received any compensation. Work contracts were granted only to the very top managers. Lower hierarchy were provided with a meaningless paper stating an agreed figure. This document has never been respected by its initiators.
Good Machine, Good Machine
Saline Aching was curious to understand some Hebrew terms, it is her interest in the Hebrew language that helped her to grasp the meaning of Akol Kalul, all included. Not one hotel staff failed to understand the meaning of the Hebrew idiom that became the hotel business philosophy. All hotel services where included in the price of the holiday package purchased back in Israel. Soon the staff learned that this very idiom means a lot to Israelis.
“All day long I heard the guests shouting Akol Kalul,” says Josef Katan. “Some of them held me by my arm and shouted at me Akol Kalul. Even on the beach they would just shout to passing people Akol Kalul, Akol Kalul. I would then ask them what that ‘Akol Kalul’ means? They would answer, ‘everything, even you’. I used to tell them that I am not Sulami’s property. He owns the hotel but not me. I thought to myself, “God, do they behave as such in their own country?”
In the best case scenario, the Akol Kalul was practiced in the free buffet bar materialising into gigantic chunks of meat put on a single plate. In the worst case scenario, it found its way into the massage room. Needless to say, not even one guest evaded his right to be massaged. Aching says, “The first thing the male guests did upon arrival, even before they unloaded their suitcases in the rooms, they would sprint to the massage room. They would enter the hotel with their eyes wide open asking, ‘where is the massage room?’ I used to plan the daily schedule, there was a competition amongst them who is going to get there first.
Mali: “My role was to tell them: ‘I am Dorothy and I am a masseuse in the hotel’ as soon as I mentioned it they would scream ‘massage, massage’. Most of them couldn’t speak English. They would just say, ‘I come now.’ A tourist from another country would wait even two weeks but in Paradise they wanted it all right on the spot. Sometimes, even before breakfast. Someone would come and tell you, ‘I come for a massage akol kalul, if you don’t do akol kalul, I take another masseuse’.”
“They would say: “I want Harpaya, (ejaculation), I would then ask what this Harpaya means and they would answer, ‘not only harpaya but we want it ‘all inclusive’, full sex.’ I used to tell them that we don’t do it and he would reply, ‘Read my lips, ‘the women are all included’, the salesman in Tel Aviv promised us that it’s Akol Kalul!’ Sometimes one of the female managers would suggest for to us to follow the guests’ demands just as a guarantee that they would come back.”
Katherine Kaha, a masseuse, confesses that she had to follow the demands… “I would start doing a massage, and then the man would tell me, ‘do it all over, you must do it’. In case I wouldn’t they would complain to the management. I didn’t like it at all but I did it. They would give me $1 sometimes two, I felt horrible.”
A frequent Israeli guest to the hotel: “There was always this problem with the massage, the Israelis used to abuse the girls to the very limit. It was appalling and it gave Israel a bad name. There were some groups I was really embarrassed to stand near to. They were so bossy and arrogant, they did whatever they liked, and just had good time.”
“One of the Israelis told me,” says Rahima, “you know Rahima, last night they provided me with a little baby girl, only 13 years old, I fucked her and gave her $5 just because she was penniless.” I then asked him, “Wasn’t she the age of your granddaughter?” He didn’t answer. On the same night he might as well have come back to the hotel shouting, ‘African women are the best value for money.’ Let me tell you, here in Africa, it isn’t that common that once you sleep with a woman you go and inform the rest of the world about it. But the Israelis kept it all open, they used to say about us: Mechona Tova, Mechona Tova (Good machine, Good machine).”
The Power to Fuck
The passion for sex wasn’t only restricted to the massage rooms and wasn’t solely the business of the single male guests. It was rather prohibited to let local girls into the hotel. But a solution was found, just across the road, again in an Israeli partnership, a motel named Calypso was founded. This was where Israelis were hanging around in the nights. “Men used to come to our rooms asking us to go out with them,” tells Josef Katan, “but the worst happened in the morning when they shared the details of last night’s affairs with the entire dining room. They used to shout things like ‘ha, I went with her, I fucked and fucked and fucked her all night long and all for less than one dollar’. We understood exactly what they were talking about. When the first group arrived, I was telling myself that surely the second group would be better. But it was exactly the same. From tine to time they used to ask for room service, once the room service crew would enter their room, they would try to touch her. The waitresses were horrified, they never wanted to go with food to the rooms, but my personal case was different, they were afraid of me because I was rude to them. They used to call me ‘big ass’. This was Ok, it is better being ‘big ass’ rather than being their sex slave.”
“Even the married men used to find some ways to the girls’ rooms. For instance, one told his wife, ‘go to the dining room, I will be right there with you.’ Apparently he disappeared till the morning after. In the morning we were witnessing the woman screaming at her husband during breakfast. Once a man replied to his wife, ‘the women in Kenya are so great, they have a small hole, unlike you having such a silly big one’. All that at breakfast, in the dining room, in public. When the animosity went wild we always rushed to bring the hotel’s Rabbi in, he would do his best to make peace. Sometimes, the men used to sit in the dining room while the donkeys were having sex outside. As soon as the Israelis noticed the donkeys’ activity they would stand up and show their support: ‘good, good, good, forward, backward, good. good’.”
“Occasionally, one would come to me telling me in front of everyone else. ‘I will take Viagra and after that I will have the power to fuck. By the way, what’s your name?’ I would say Rahima. ‘Good, Rahima. I want to fuck you today!’” I asked myself what is going on. One guest asked me, ‘do you know Chartie? I went with her to the disco, I fucked her but she wasn’t good at all. Originally I planed to give her $10 but eventually I gave her $1 only. He was shouting like a madman and then Chartie arrived in the room. He then pointed at her with his finger and shouted ‘here she is, it was her’.”
Karen Tiglo, a room cleaner: “We couldn’t figure out whether the Israelis were wild animals or human beings. They would all the time offer me $10. I felt so humiliated. After a while they would know who amongst the female crew were desperate for money and would just go for them. Stela Matawa, a waitress: from time to time, a man would approach me abusively, in case I would refuse, the man would come to the dining room and shout, ‘leave out this girl she is crap, I took her to the room and she was useless’.”
Katherine Kaa experienced an especially traumatic event when a seventy-year-old man decided that he was in love with her. “I didn’t love him at all,” she says. “We went out to a discothèque, I was sure that I was just escorting him to assist him killing his boredom. On the way back, he and the taxi driver tricked me, rather than driving back to the hotel, we arrived at a place that hires rooms for the night. Violently, he tried to force me to sleep with him. But I couldn’t. When we went back to the hotel he told me that never wanted to see me again. And he would report to the management that I wasted his money without giving a thing back. After my refusal was reported, the hotel manager dismissed me for two weeks.”
According to a few of the crew members, not only did the Israeli management fail to denounce, some of the managers actually joined the party (their names are kept with the editors of the newspaper). Raymond, “At the time one of the managers learned to enjoy the massages. He started to demand: ‘do it here, here and there’ just like one of the guests. Another manager would pick girls from the entertainment team, he would say, ‘after all, I am a manager, no one would ask you where were you going.’ I had to accept it although it was rather horrible. The day after when he would pass by me, he would hardly acknowledge me. Every time, after our performances, one dancer would disappear into one of the manager s’ offices. The girls were afraid that this might be a professional issue to do with their performance but then, once in the manager’s office, they realised what it was all about.”