The Afula municipality on Sunday agreed to rescind its decision to close its municipal park to non-residents, in accordance with the recommendation of the Nazareth District Court.
In a hearing of a petition filed by the anti-Zionist, foreign-funded NGO Adalah, Judge Danny Tzarfati made it clear that closing off a public area and collecting entry fees is illegal. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit joined the petition on Friday (see: AG Mandelblit to Support Anti-Zionist NGO’s Petition Against Afula’s ‘Residents Only’ Park).
The court approved the municipality’s request to allow it two days to reorganize, and ordered the park be opened to the entire public on Tuesday, July 16.
Attorney Avi Goldhammer, who represented the city of Afula, said he accepted the court’s position because there is currently no possibility under existing regulations to prefer city residents at the entrance to the park.
“We thought the legal situation allowed it, but the court expressed its position,” he said. “At the same time, we are pleased that the court has removed the racism issue from the agenda.”
The judge refrained from discussing the petitioner’s claim that the municipality’s decision stems from racist motives, to prevent residents of nearby Arab villages from visiting the park. The judge said instead that “even if the place is closed only in preference of local residents, according to the law it is forbidden to collect payment at the entrance to public parks.”
“The prohibition against charging a fee is a prohibition against restricting entry,” the judge said. “Just like you don’t close a street, you don’t close a park, even without any relation to discrimination.”
The Afula municipality issued a statement saying that “following the decision to open the park, we will have to transfer some of the activities to the community centers, to the municipal pool and to other centers throughout the city, to ensure the enjoyment and safety of the residents.”
That’s code for: we’ll keep the Arabs out wherever we can, because everybody knows stuff can get out of hand when they’re around.
Here’s something Afula should consider: privatize the park.