Herzliya beach 298.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In what could become a national precedent, Michmoret Beach, near Netanya, will no longer be closed off to the public during private functions, according to an agreement ratified Thursday.
The Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED) and the local Protect Michmoret Beach organization came to an agreement with the Emek Hefer Regional Council after an eight-month legal battle.
The accord came in lieu of a ruling by the Tel Aviv District Court, which endorsed the agreement. IUED would like the document to be adopted by the Interior Ministry as guidelines for all beaches, deputy director Amit Bracha told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
"This is a phenomenon that has plagued the country for years and gotten worse in the last few years. Regional councils would put up fences [around the beaches] and not allow the public in. There would be offensively loud music and other pollution issues," he said.
"We think this agreement could become a good basis for the beach protection committee, a sub-committee of the National Planning and Building Council in the Interior Ministry," he went on. "We'd like to see it adopted for all beaches."
In essence, the agreement enshrines the right of a family to have a picnic on the beach at the same time as, for instance, a catered office party.
Michmoret is not the only public beach that has suffered from the incursion of private initiatives. Bracha mentioned the Palmahim and Zikim beaches along the Mediterranean, among others. Around Lake Kinneret, too, there have been complaints that public beaches have been fenced off, de facto turning them into private ones.
Michmoret Beach had been closed off on numerous occasions for private functions, during which public access was denied to either the entire beach or certain parts of it. While there was no particular law preventing private events on a beach with the consent of the regional council, the judge said there was a case to be made and urged the two sides to work it out, according to Bracha.
After eight months, the two sides did work out a mutually satisfactory document. The agreement endorsed the principle that beaches were "a public resource, open and free for the welfare and enjoyment of the entire public."
The document made clear that even during a private function, access had to be granted to the public, and that private events had to have some connection to the beach or the sea, Bracha noted.
"It started out with private events, generally in the evening or at night, but it got so bad that there were events practically every day, all day, at Michmoret. People were having bar mitzvas on the beach," he said. "People who had even paid to come in and sit on the beach were told they had to move to allow organizers to set up a private event."
Bracha said the agreement "now stipulates that the event must have some connection to the beach, like a volleyball game or a boating race, for instance."