A young haredi boy wearing a "Jude" star takes part in a protest against mandatory IDF conscription, March 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Inter-communal tensions have been stoked by the city of Givat Shmuel after it gave notice that it is restricting entry to two municipal parks to city residents alone from the middle of July to the middle of August.
The outcry over the decision came because many residents of the overwhelmingly haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city of Bnei Brak, adjacent to Givat Shmuel, take their children to the Givat Shmuel parks during the summer weeks due to overcrowding in Bnei Brak’s parks.
The two parks in question are the Ramon and Elkana parks, and entry to them will be restricted only to city residents between July 23 and August 16 from four o’clock in the afternoon to ten o’clock at night, when children’s activities will be staged.
Anyone seeking to enter at those times will need to present a city-residents cards which are now being distributed.
The decision was seen as discriminatory against the haredi community, leading to a firestorm of protest on Facebook where the Givat Shmuel Municipality posted about the new regulations, and eventually reaching the ears of haredi leaders who have vigorously protested the decision.
One man writing on the Facebook post described the policy as “antisemitism” while another described it as “racist.”
Others welcomed the move, with one man writing that “welcoming guests” requires the guests to behave accordingly.
“The parks are for the benefit of the city residents and built through the municipal taxes of those residents, and not for those residents to discover that the park is always with residents from another city.”
Another woman said that it was “not fair that at peak times there is no space in our public parks for which we pay our municipal taxes,” and that the Bnei Brak Municipality should build decent parks for the city’s children.
One Givat Shmuel resident was critical of the policy saying that the city’s residents should just admit they don’t like having haredim up close, while another said it sent a message not to share and not to care for others.
“We have the fortune to live in a city which builds parks and where we can afford high municipal taxes. Instead of enjoying them with the residents of other cities who have less, we restrict them. Very sad.
This is not the education I want to give to my children. One of the foundations of the Jewish people is the kindness to think of others,” he wrote.
In response to the furor, the Givat Shmuel Municipal Authority rejected the notion that its policy was racist or antisemitic, calling such accusations “inappropriate” and arguing that the policy “is not targeted against any specific sector but rather in a comprehensive manner against all non-residents.”
It also pointed out that the policy was only in place for a specific and limited time period since the capacity of the parks is too small for the number of people coming to them at these times.
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, together with Shas MK Yinon Azoulay, submitted a motion to the agenda in the Knesset on Monday, saying the policy was possibly illegal and besmirched the haredi community.
Givat Shmuel is not the first municipal authority to enact such policies. Raanana began charging non-residents an entrance fee to the park in 2000, and the law was subsequently ammended to prevent such a policy following legal pressure.
In 2014, Modi’in restricted non-residents from using its Anabeh Park during the intermediary days of Passover and Succot, largely because of the large number of haredi residents of Modi’in Illit who came to the park on such days.
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