Kinneret Beachfronts Closed to the Public

Many of the Kinnerets' (Sea of Galilee) beaches have been taken over by private interests, leaving little open space for public use. The State Comptroller's beachfront criticisms have been ignored.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 13:07

An investigative report by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) finds that the "authorities are not taking action against the take-over by illegal elements of beaches along the Kinneret, nor against the exacting of exorbitant fees there."

The report, issued earlier this month, shows that the State Comptroller's report on the issue has been essentially ignored by those responsible.

The State Comptroller's Report, issued this past May, had harsh criticism of the manner in which the beaches are run. Fences are put up arbitrarily by private interests, illegal fees are charged for swimmers, exorbitant fees are charged for vehicles, and trash has amassed along many areas of open beaches.

The SPNI has taken upon itself to forge a hiking path around the entire perimeter of the Sea, and some 35 out of close to 60 kilometers have already been prepared.
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for more information on this project.

In addition, the SPNI is arranging clean-up projects on the Kinneret shore. Today (Wednesday), for instance, some 20 high school seniors from Hatzor HaGlilit, east of Tzfat, arrived at the northern shore near Amnun to clean up a 25-meter stretch. This was the second group to arrive in a week. David, one of the students, told Arutz-7 today, "It's definitely a worthwhile endeavor, and when it's clean, we get to swim here afterwards as well."

The issue is one of the rare ones that unite all sectors of Israeli society. "Everyone in the country," said Nissim, "is interested in freer access to the Kinneret - hareidim, secular, right, left, everyone - and that's what's good about this."

Among the groups that have taken part in volunteer efforts on behalf of the Kinneret are the Yemin Orde Institute, Kibbutz Sdei Eliyahu, Bnei Akiva, Zionist Youth, Green Trend, new immigrants, Adam School in Jerusalem, the Ulpanah in Nov, the youth of Kfar Haruv, the Re'ali School in Haifa, Yeshivat Tal Hermon, and more.

Nissim Asaban, one of the Kinneret project leaders for the SPNI, blames the four main regional councils around the sea for not maintaining the beaches that are still open. "They claim that if they allow free access to the shore," he told Arutz-7 today, "trash would pile up. This is of course true - but they should take responsibility for cleaning it! That's like closing a main road instead of sending street sweepers to clean it."

Arutz-7 contacted the Emek HaYarden Regional Council, under whose auspices the Amnun shoreline is found, to find out why the beach was not kept clean. The Mayor, Yossi Vardi, at first refused to speak with Arutz-7, claiming via his secretary that it was a pirate station. This reporter responded that this was categorically untrue, as Arutz-7 operates via internet, and asked if the mayor wished this to be printed as his response to the matter of filthy beaches. The secretary promised to contact the mayor again and return with an answer. As of press time, no such answer had been received.

Though volunteers can be found to clean some beaches, the main issue is still far from solved. The latest SPNI report shows that not one of the 120 fences built illegally along the Kinneret - to prevent would-be swimmers from enjoying the water - have been taken down.

"The bottom line," according to Asaban, "is that the State of Israel has abandoned the Kinneret. There is not one place along the entire Kineret where a person can go swimming for free on a public beach, with proper services. In Herzliya, for instance, on the Mediterranean coast, I recently went to a beach that was kept nicely, with rest rooms and steps and the like. But there is nothing like that along the Kinneret."

He explained that along the Kinneret, there are three types of shore sites: "Officially-declared privately owned beaches that exact high prices; nicely-maintained beaches that are forbidden for swimming, and where swimmers are ostensibly breaking the law and are certainly not eligible for assistance if they are hurt; and rock-lined areas that have No Swimming signs plastered all over them, with no one assuming responsibility for them."

Asaban explained that one source of the problem is that there are many bodies responsible in one way or another for the Kinneret, thus that complainants are often shuffled back and forth from one to another.

Asked what is the immediate first step that must be taken to alleviate the problem, Asaban said, "We want the fences taken down, and open and publicly-maintained beaches along the Kinneret returned to the people."

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