A successful petition to the Supreme Court: “Free accessibility to a public park in Kiryat-Atta”

In August 2012, the EJC submitted an appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court contesting the legality and adequacy of a recent decision by the municipality of Kiryat-Atta to introduce entry fees to its park for non-residents. Kiryat-Atta is a city of Jewish inhabitants and in close vicinity of numerous Arab villages. None of the neighboring Arab villages has their own green spaces or parks due to national urban planning restriction and limited local budgets. They are also characterized by high poverty levels. Therefore, free access to the park in Kiryat-Atta plays a central role to their well-being. After a long process of uncooperative correspondences with the municipality, the EJC decided to submit a petition to the Supreme Court, arguing that a municipality isn’t allowed to impose fees in public parks unless they received an exceptional permit from the relevant committee. By law it is forbidden to impose entrance fees to a public park, 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’.
By law, public parks are not allowed to charge fees from visitors – regardless of the visitors’ place of residents. As described in earlier reports, the EJC conducted intensive advocacy opposite the Municipality of Kiryat Atta by pointing not only at the need of the surrounding Arab communities to public parks (access to open, green spaces; opportunities for physical activities), but also to the legal situation. Thus in August 2012, the EJC submitted its Supreme Court petition. This petition was discussed on May 30, 2013. In summary, the Supreme Court stated that it is not the relevant decision-maker/authority and recommended turning to the Regional Administrative Court in Haifa. Accordingly, an appeal was submitted to the Regional Administrative Court in Haifa on August 2013. A primary discussion took place in 17.12.2013 in which the judge stated that the appeal arouses a legal question of such importance which justifies further discussion. A more in depth discussion was set to 18.3.2014 and deemed highly successful for our case.
A final decision has been received in September 2014, in favor of the petition of the HEJC. Effectively the Kiryat Atta Municipality has been ordered by the court to stop collecting entry fees from external residents, most of which are Arab citizens. The petition received quite a lot of attention in the Arab and Jewish media as well as in NGO circles, as the same issue prevails in many different locations across the country.