Will this year’s Independence Day be the last time that all inhabitants of Israel be able to celebrate in public parks? Interior Minister Aryeh Deri is promoting regulations that will allow local authorities to collect entrance fees to municipal parks. ACRI is concerned that these regulations will lead to discrimination of minority groups and harm vulnerable populations.
For the last 12 years, the law has clearly prohibited local authorities from collecting entrance fees for public parks and gardens. However, the Interior Ministry is now promoting new regulations that will allow the Minister to grant a permit to a local authority to collect entrance fees under certain conditions.
Despite the law, local authorities continue to try to exploit their power in order to exclude populations they deem undesirable. This is particularly evident where established authorities border poorer municipalities, especially when those communities are characterized by different population groups – secular and ultra-Orthodox, Jews and Arabs, and the like.
Due to concern that the regulations will lead to discrimination, ACRI’s Director of the Social Rights and Equality Unit, Attorney Gil Gan-Mor, appealed to the Interior Ministry’s legal advisor to reconsider promoting the regulations. “There is no doubt that the proposed regulations, even with the included limitations, will lead authorities to use them with racist and discriminatory intent, all the while concealing their motives with seemingly neutral considerations of financing and maintenance,” the appeal states.
The appeal also states “while the regulations stipulate that the collection of a fee will only occur if there is another public park accessible at no cost in the city, this is in fact likely to create a situation in which there is a well-kept and cultivated park for the rich alongside a neglected and unkempt park for the poor – an unacceptable consequence. Parks are not only spaces of recreation, but also a meeting point for all groups within the population. Separation on the basis of economic status conveys a message of inferiority and humiliation.”
Update: In August, the Minister of Interior announced that he would not allow local authorities to collect money at public parks.