The incoming head of the Bar Association, Avi Haimi, on Sunday sent a letter to the Attorney General requesting that he order Afula Mayor Avi Elkabetz to cancel his decision to ban residents of nearby Arab cities from entering the Afula municipal park.
The Afula municipality announced on June 24 that it would prevent non-residents from entering the park during the summer vacation, except on Fridays, when the site will be open to the general public.
“The reason for closing the park to outside residents is the desire of the Mayor of Afula to prevent the Arab public from reaching public areas in the city such as the park, as can be deduced from his statements, from the media, and from his Facebook page,” Attorney Haimi wrote AG Avichai Mandelblit.
The municipality’s decision came after Mayor Elkabetz promised in his election campaign that he would prevent residents of Arab communities from entering the park, declaring, “The occupation of Afula’s municipal park must be stopped.”
The mayor wrote on his Facebook page last year: “It’s not a political issue, it’s not an election issue, it’s just something essential and fundamental: a park built for the residents of Afula should remain their own. Today, after other cities have been able to significantly reduce nonresident entry into municipal parks, the same can be done in Afula despite the legal difficulties.”
“It is possible, for example, to build a pool inside the park, and charge a high entrance fee from non-residents and a symbolic price from the residents. We must also proudly raise Israeli flags throughout the park and play Hebrew music,” Elkabetz wrote, adding, “On days when we know that many outside residents are expected to arrive, the park must be closed for maintenance. We have to stop them from exploiting us!”
According to the municipality’s decision, residents of the city are able to enter the park at no cost by presenting an ID, and children who live in the city are able to purchase a bracelet for ten shekels, which allows them entry into the park throughout the summer vacation.
On Fridays the park will open to the general public, but non-residents will not be able to participate in the activities.
The Afula municipality responded: “The claims that the park was opened only to Afulaites over the Jews vs. Arabs issue are incorrect. The park opens only to the residents of Afula no matter what their faith might be, because this park is theirs, they pay for it with municipal taxes and have the right to use it. It has nothing to do with racism. All residents of Afula are invited to the park.”
In 2011, members of the party today called Otzma Yehudit infiltrated a group of 40 illegal Sudanese migrants into the Gordon swimming pool in north Tel Aviv, causing world war three among the Tel Avivian swimmers who were shocked by the black invasion of their favorite (salt water) pool.
Those who try to force the residents of Afula—a city surrounded by failed Arab towns that never spent a penny on a green patch, never mind a park, to embrace its Arab neighbors—should first invite a group of Arab youths to their own pool side at home.