The Supreme Court ruled that non-residents may continue to access the Kiryat Atta park free of charge
Kiryat-Atta is a city of Jewish inhabitants and in close vicinity of numerous Arab villages, none of which has their own green spaces or parks due to national urban planning restrictions and limited local budgets. These villages are also characterized by high poverty levels and many of their residents use the park in Kiryat Atta, with free access to it playing a central role to their well-being.
In 2012 it was brought to the attention of the Galilee Society’s Environmental Justice Centre (EJC) that the Kiryat-Atta municipality had introduced entrance fees to its park for non-residents. By law, public parks are not allowed to charge fees from visitors – regardless of the visitors’ place of residence. However, at the same time, there is no definition of ‘Public Park” thus making it rather easy to circumvent the basic intention of providing ‘equal access’.
The EJC advocated intensely to the Kiryat Atta municipality on the need of the surrounding Arab communities for public parks (access to open, green spaces; opportunities for physical activities), as well as the legal situation but fees were continued to be charged. This led to the following legal proceedings:
August 2012: The EJC submitted the petition to the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice in Jerusalem
May 30, 2013: First discussion of the case. The Supreme Court recommended turning the case to the Regional Administrative Court in Haifa.
August 2013: Petition submitted to Regional Administrative Court in Haifa
December 12, 2013: Primary discussion of the case. The judge stated that the case arouses an important legal question which justifies further discussion.
March 18, 2014: In depth discussion of the case which was deemed highly successful for the EJC.
September 2014: Final decision of the Regional Administrative Court in Haifa in favor of the EJC. Kiryat Atta Municipality was ordered by the court to stop collecting entry fees from external residents, most of which are Arab citizens.
January 14, 2015: Kiryat-Atta appealed the decision to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem
November 18, 2015: Final decision of the Supreme Court of Justice in Jerusalem in favor of the EJC.
This case was therefore a win for the EJC and the local Arab community as they can legally continue to use the park for their well-being and leisure free of charge. However, there have unfortunately still been ongoing incidents reported of non-residents being charged for ‘facilities use’. The EJC encourages any such incidents to be recorded and reported to the Galilee Society.
This issue has received significant interest from both the Arab and Jewish media as well as in NGO circles, as the same issue prevails in many different locations across the country.