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Israeli Civil Rights Group Slams Modi’in on Anti-Haredi Policies

The Israeli city of Modi'in is slammed from an unlikely direction - Israel's civil right's organization, the Association for Civil rights in Israel (ACRI).
A Haredi man walking on the road to Modiin Elit.

A Haredi man walking on the road to Modiin Elit.
Photo Credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90

The Israeli city of Modi’in was slammed from an unlikely direction – Israel’s civil right’s organization, the Association for Civil rights in Israel (ACRI).  Granted ACRI doesn’t have the most objective agenda, and their voice was blatantly absent when it came to the Disengagement in 2005. Nevertheless, they are to be praised for doing the right thing when it comes to Modi’in.

Here’s their press release:

Press Release
October 30, 2012

ACRI to Modi’in Municipality: Restricting Entrance to Public Parks is Illegal Municipality’s ‘overcrowding’ rationale suspected to be a pretext for denying entry to Orthodox Jews from Modi’in Illit

Today (October 30) the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) sent a letter to the Mayor of Modi’in, Haim Bibas, demanding that that he terminate the city’s policy of restricting entrance to the Anava River Public Park during parts of the year.

The municipality of Modi’in-Macabim-Reut enacted the policy – which prohibits nonresidents from entering the park during the summer months and on holidays – prior to the festival of Sukkot in October. Despite the official rationale for the policy – overcrowding in the park – the municipality’s actions raise a suspicion that its true purpose is to exclude Orthodox Jews from neighboring Modi’in Illit.

This is not the first time a local authority has tried to restrict entry to public parks. In 2000, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense filed a petition against the Ra’anana municipality after it began charging nonresidents an entrance fee at one if its city parks. Following the petition, the national law was amended and a clear ban on charging entrance fees to public parks was established. Further discussions in the Knesset emphasized that the purpose of the amendment was to regulate access to public parks for the enjoyment and benefit of the public at large.

Some months ago, ACRI wrote a letter to the municipality of Kiryat Ata, after learning that the city was charging nonresidents entrance fees at its public park. In that case, the suspected purpose of the policy was to prevent the entrance of Arabs from nearby communities.

The letter to Mayor Bibas, written by ACRI Chief Legal Counsel Dan Yakir, warns that the restriction is illegal; it violates the right to equality, and in practice constitutes prohibited discrimination against a religious group. Although the municipality procured a legal opinion from Professor Ariel Bendor that sanctions the policy, ACRI disagrees with the opinion’s conclusions.

Attorney Dan Yakir: “The fact that the park was built on municipal land does not mean that the municipality can do whatever it wants with it. Public space, such as this park, is designated for the public at large. It is unacceptable for local authorities to attempt to restrict the public’s ability to access parks under their control. “

And while we’re on the topic of Modi’in, a friend of mine started getting Halloween orders for food…from multiple residents of…Modi’in.  I guess caroling isn’t enough.

However, one must keep in mind that living in Modi’in is still far better according to the Talmud and the Rambam, than living in the holy cities of Brooklyn, Monsey or Lakewood.

Update: For those not familiar with the story in Modi’in, you can read about it over at AddeRabbi’s blog, a resident of Modi’in. (here and here)

Quote from AddeRabbi blog:

For those not following along at home, my fair hometown of Modiin has barred non-residents from visiting its spacious and beautiful Anabe Park during vacations and on Hol Ha-Mo’ed. This is a result of a pishing contest between Modiin’s Mayor Haim Bibas and Modi’in Ilit’s Mayor Yaakov Guterman, plus it plays into a strong anti-Haredi (and occasionally anti-religious) sentiment amongst a minority of Modiin residents (a political party, Modiin Hofshit, ran on an anti-religious platform and got only a few hundred votes for city council).

The new policy upsets me greatly, and I wanted to see how the policy was being implemented generally. As I got in line to enter the park, I could see that a few cars ahead of me the line was being held up by a Haredi family insisting on entering the park. Since the new regulations allow for Modiin residents to bring guests, I went and invited the family in as my guests. After a while, the guards let us in on that basis. Serendipitously, a reporter from Haaretz was there at the time. Her report is here (Hebrew) and here (English – paywall). The paragraphs relevant to my story are:

“As the argument continued, a Modi’in resident, Eli Fischer, decided to see whether everyone was really being barred from the park, or only those in ultra-Orthodox garb.

“‘He’s my guest, let him in,’ said Fischer, in an effort to help Tirnauer, at first without success. The guards checked Fischer’s identity card, and then started questioning Tirnauer and his family about their relationship. One of the ushers called a municipal security guard to help.”

“’He’s not really your guest, he’s here to make a provocation,’ the security guard told Fischer. But Fischer persisted after the getting approval of his superiors the security guard allowed Fischer and his new acquaintances into the park.

“’The park is empty, and I wanted to see what would happen, since according to the instructions that were publicized, [the park] is reserved for Modi’in residents and their guests,’ said Fischer. ‘I don’t know why they were questioning me.’

“The municipality said that the confrontation involving Tirnauer and Fischer was the first to occur since the instructions were issued, claiming it was a planned provocation by the media.

“’During all the days that entrance to the park was restricted, there wasn’t a single incident, except for one in which a visitor who isn’t a city resident came with a reporter to create a provocation and get a headline,’ the municipality said.

The Hebrew version also includes a Gemara that I cited for the benefit of the reporter, from Sukkah 27b: “All Israel are fit to dwell in a single sukkah.”

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About the Author: Jameel blogs at the Muqata: http://www.muqata.com, but these days extensively posts on Facebook. Follow Jameel at https://www.facebook.com/Muqata Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press.

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