Paz-Pines pushes for more guarded beaches

Spate of weekend drownings prompts Labor MK to call on Interior Ministry to speed up preventative measures.

tel aviv beach 88 (photo credit: )
tel aviv beach 88
(photo credit: )
After a deadly weekend along Israel's coastline, Knesset Interior Committee chairman Ophir Paz-Pines called on the Interior Ministry to speed up the process of increasing the number of guarded beaches, which he hopes will prevent future drownings. "The vast majority of instances of drowning occur at unguarded beaches. These beaches have turned into the backyard of Israel's beaches, where there is nobody to save bathers and nobody to take responsibility and every bather is gambling with their life," said Paz-Pines. Paz-Pines repeated his calls to Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit "to accelerate the care for unrecognized beaches and to certify as many beaches as possible during this bathing season." According to data from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, approximately half of Israel's coastline consists of unguarded beaches. At the opening of the 2008 swimming season, the Interior Ministry recorded 143 recognized beaches in the country, of which 91 were on the Mediterranean Sea, 25 on the Kinneret, 22 on the Dead Sea and five on the Red Sea. In May, the issue of the undeclared beaches arose during a hearing marking the opening of the bathing season. At the time, Paz-Pines turned to Interior Ministry representatives recommending that they prepare a multi-year plan to increase the number of official beaches. "The population is growing and beaches that are available to the population are small and crowded. Beaches look like sardine boxes and more and more beaches are needed," said Paz-Pines. The head of the Interior Ministry's Beaches Division, Asher Garner, said in response "it's true that in some of the areas, the reality is simply unbearable. As policy, we encourage local authorities to develop more beaches, but their costs are massive." Subsidy for guarded beaches is the responsibility of local governments, which can either operate the beaches themselves or petition for the beach to be operated by a concession-owner, a situation in which the beaches may offer more services but can also carry with them a hefty price tag that deters some beachgoers. It is not only the hundreds of kilometers of Mediterranean coastline that present a risk to swimmers due to dangerous currents and higher-than-usual waves. National Beach Inspector Yosef Amar warned that due to the decline in water levels in Lake Kinneret, an increased drowning risk existed on those beaches as well. At the time, Paz-Pines also asked for authorities to increase the number of lifeguards at beaches. At least three of the five people who drowned over the weekend, including a 12-year-old boy, were swimming at unguarded beaches. At least one of those beaches, the so-called "Break-in Beach" north of the Cliff Beach in Herzliya, is surrounded by a fence to keep out would-be bathers, but - as the beach's name indicates - the fence has not stemmed the tide of bathers seeking emptier shores than can be found at Herzliya's crowded municipal beaches.