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Citing safety concerns, Nashville hotel cancels pro-Israel summit

As many as 400 participants had booked rooms to attend a summit from May 20 to May 22 at the Sonesta Nashville Airport Hotel.

Downtown Nashville. Credit:  paulbr75/Pixabay.
Downtown Nashville. Credit: paulbr75/Pixabay.

A Nashville hotel has pulled out of hosting a pro-Israel event, stating that it had received “threats.”

The Israel Summit—scheduled for May 20 to May 22 at the Sonesta Nashville Airport Hotel—is being coordinated by HaYovel, a Christian organization that facilitates volunteer service work in Israel, and the Israel Guys, a pro-Israel media initiative that grew out of HaYovel.

The inaugural event, which is expected to draw about 500 people, is billed as a “gathering of pro-Israel supporters who unconditionally support Israel’s right to be sovereign in the entirety of the land of Israel, including Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the Gaza Strip.”

As many as 400 participants have already booked rooms at the hotel, which has now canceled their reservations.

Speakers for the event include Knesset member Ohad Tal; former Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.); journalist and author Caroline Glick; international spokesperson for the Jewish community of Hebron Yishai Fleisher; National Religious Broadcasters president Troy Miller; the Land of Israel Network’s Rabbis Jeremy Gimpel and Ari Abramowitz; Israel365 CEO Rabbi Tuly Weisz; and many others.

The summit also includes a concert featuring Israeli musician Yair Levi, a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Shayetet 13 unit, Israel’s equivalent to the Navy SEALs. The concert is scheduled for May 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Israel365, a co-sponsor of the event, said the hotel consulted with local police who “were concerned that the hotel, their guests, local businesses and attendees to the Israel Summit would be in physical danger due to the threatening nature of the calls and messages they received.”

Palestine Hurra, a Nashville-based organization that is “dedicated to the total liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” and dismantling “the occupying Zionist apartheid state,” posted an “urgent call to action” for its members to call the hotel and tell them “we will not allow genocidal racists to hold a conference in our city.”

The call stated that “they choose to come here and celebrate the death of civilians and recruit new Zionists. Call relentlessly until this event is shut down!”

On May 10, the hotel contacted HaYovel and used the “force majeure” clause of the contract to cancel the event. The contract had been signed on Jan. 31.

On May 13, First Liberty Institute sent a letter to the hotel, urging it to fulfill its commitment. First Liberty Institute is the nation’s largest law firm dedicated exclusively to defending and restoring religious liberty for all Americans.

“It is un-American—and illegal—to cancel a gathering due to religious beliefs and quite frankly it is morally wrong,” said Hiram Sasser, executive general counsel at First Liberty Institute. “The Sonesta and others cannot surrender to terror in violation of federal and Tennessee law. If this hotel chain surrenders to pro-Hamas, terrorist beliefs, where does it stop? The hotel must make the choice of standing with American ideals or pro-Hamas terrorists. We hope the hotel will quickly reverse its decision.”

In its letter to the hotel, the institute said the threats the hotel reported “presumably … were antisemitic and anti-Israel in nature and in line with the hateful rhetoric currently seen on some of America’s college campuses.”

‘Pretext for religious discrimination’

Sasser stated that the force majeure clause is only if it were illegal or impossible to use the facilities, not for “unsubstantiated safety threats,” and that the cancellation “bears the unmistakable and distinctly unpleasant odor of pretext for religious discrimination.”

Miller, who will be leading an NRB fact-finding mission to Israel just after the summit, said he was disappointed to hear about the news, “where I and fellow Christian and Jewish leaders planned to express our support and solidarity with Israel.”

He said, “It is a sad day for our country when a peaceful, educational and informative gathering can be sabotaged by activists and abruptly canceled by the host venue on short notice. Whether this action sprung from corporate hostility or intimidation by hecklers, the result is that HaYovel has been denied a public accommodation due to its religious beliefs.”

Miller urged the hotel to honor its contractual commitment.

In February, the NRB held its annual conference at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel with numerous pro-Israel events. One of them was the launch of Keep God’s Land, one of the co-sponsors of the summit. The group promotes Israel’s maintaining sovereignty in the territories.

Israel Summit, The Israel Guys
Luke Hilton, marketing director for the Israel Guys, speaks about social media at the National Religious Broadcasters convention, held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, in February 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

Luke Hilton, the marketing director for the Israel Guys, told The Washington Times that the summit will still go on—at the Sonesta or another location.

The pro-Israel Christian group Eagles’ Wings started an “Urgent Petition to Uphold Rule of Law,” to guarantee the right of freedom of peaceful assembly.

The petition is directed to Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, and Rep. Andy Ogles, all Republicans; Gov. Bill Lee; and Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell.

This story originally appeared in Southern Jewish Life.

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