Modiin at night
Modiin at nightFlash 90

During the Sukkot holiday the city of Modiin closed the local Anabe Park to non-residents. The move came after threats to close the park to residents of the neighboring hareidi-religious city of Modiin Illit (Kiryat Sefer), and was widely seen as an anti-hareidi move.

After complaints and criticism, now comes the lawsuit. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has filed suit against the city for alleged discrimination.

ACRI attorney Dan Yakir sent a letter Tuesday stating that closing the park to non-residents had been illegal, and constituted discrimination against the religious public.

“The fact that the park was built on city land does not mean that the municipality can do whatever it wants with it,” he wrote. “A public space is what it sounds like – a space meant for the well-being of the entire public.”

“We cannot accept a situation in which municipalities attempt to restrict access to parks in their territory,” he added.

The city of Modiin was aware of the potential for lawsuits, and consulted a legal expert prior to barring outsiders from using the park. However, ACRI believes the legal opinion the city relied on was wrong.

In August 2012, a month before the park was closed to outsiders for Sukkot, Modiin Mayor Chaim Bibas threatened to bar hareidi-religious visitors from the recreational site in response to hareidi threats to bar secular visitors from a heritage site in Modiin Illit.

At the time, Bibas told Modiin Illit Mayor Yaakov Gutterman that many hareidi families from his city visit Anabe Park “since your city does not provide adequate facilities.” He said that many Modiin residents have told him they feel the park “is being taken from them.”