At EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort, Guests can walk around World Showcase Lagoon through 11 countries, trying new foods and learning about unique cultures through shows, rides, and performances.
The Park initially opened with nine countries, with Morocco added in 1984 and Norway, the World Showcase’s most recent addition, in 1988. Over the years, fans have speculated about additional pavilions that suit the Park’s theme and Disney’s intellectual properties. There is unused land around the World Showcase Lagoon that could house a new country.
In the 1980s, this almost came to fruition. The Walt Disney Company and Disney Parks collaborated with the Israeli government to plan EPCOT’s Israel Pavilion, but it was met with fierce opposition following their joint announcement in 1981.
By 1984, the banners announcing the construction of the new Israel pavilion were removed.
According to a New York Times article from September 18, 1999, Israel partially financed the pavilion. Many of the countries in the World Showcase are funded by their respective nations. Still, Israel did so under the impression that the exhibit would declare Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel.
Arab countries oppose this claim, arguing that Israeli forces seized part of Jerusalem after the Six Day War of 1967.
Following the outcry, The Walt Disney Company met with Arab leaders, assuring them “there is no reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel within the exhibit.” The New York Times spoke with Hussein Ibish, an anti-discrimination activist in Washington, D.C.:
The official, Hussein Ibish, of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, said that while it was good that the exhibit does not call Jerusalem the capital of Israel, it still did not recognize the Arab view that the eastern portion of Jerusalem is occupied illegally by the Israelis and has a cultural character distinct from Israel.”Their statement ignores all the important issues we put before them,” Mr. Ibish said.
According to The Orlando Sentinel, the Israel pavilion would have included an attraction called “Journey to Jerusalem,” which would’ve taken Guests through a 3,000 year history of the city. They also report that the Israeli Foreign Ministry contributed $1.8 million to the pavilion before it was canceled.
A mini-exhibit dedicated to Israel was housed at Millennium Village pavilion, located between the United Kingdom and Canada, from 1999 to 2001, with a short film titled “Journey to Jerusalem” rather than a ride or other major attraction. But further plans for an Israel pavilion at EPCOT never came to fruition.
What country would you like to see added to EPCOT’s World Showcase? Let us know in the comments.