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Tourism Ministry Denies Paying Emanuel Family's Squid Bill

After press reports and a query by MK Ben-Ari, Tourism Ministry denies it paid bill for White House Chief of Staff's family's fried squid.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 5/23/2010, 11:20 PM / Last Update: 5/26/2010, 5:30 PM

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The Ministry of Tourism denies it paid the bill for White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and his family, after they dined on seafood at an Eilat restaurant. A report in Maariv-NRG said that Emanuel left the bill for the Israeli Tourism Ministry representative who accompanied his family, and other news sources added that the ministry paid the bill. MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari of the National Union fired off a letter to the Attorney General in which he demanded that the bill be sent back to Emanuel.

Emanuel is in Israel on a private visit, not an official one, with his parents, wife, children and other family members, to make preparations for his son's upcoming Bar Mitzvah. Upon arrival in Israel Friday, the Emanuels headed for Eilat, where they dined on seafood at a restaurant. What happened after the (unkosher) meal, which included cheviche (citrus marinaded seafood), calamari (fried squid), various fish, salads and hamburgers, is now not clear: at this point the Ministry of Tourism has not denied that its representative was handed the bill, but it does deny having paid it.

It is not known where the Bar Mitzvah ceremony will take place. Nationalists have said that they will prevent Emanuel from celebrating at the Kotel (Western Wall). There have been reports that the ceremony will be held at the Robinson's Arch part of the Wall, which is slightly removed from the public area and which serves those of the Reform and Conservative communities who wish to hold prayer services that differ noticeably from traditional ones, as only traditional services are allowed at the public part of the Wall. 

The media-savvy Emanuel made no attempt to keep his family's culinary experience in Eilat from becoming known to the Israeli media and even posed for a picture with the restaurant's chef. Dining on blatantly unkosher food on a trip devoted to a Bar Mitzvah might be interpreted by some as a deliberate message by Emanuel to the same religious nationalists who say they will not allow his son to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel's public area, in keeping with a line of theatrically insulting messages to Israel delivered by the White House since it came under Emanuel's direction. The most notorious of these was the photograph released by the White House of President Barack Obama speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with his feet propped up on his desk and the soles thrust at the camera.