Givat Shmuel banning haredim from their parks?

Affluent Religious-Zionist dominated city denies ban on Bnei Brak residents is anti-haredi. 'Ban is targeted on whoever doesn't live here.'

Tzvi Lev ,

Givat Shmuel
Givat Shmuel

A scrap has broken out between the haredi city of Bnei Brak and the nearby affluent city of Givat Shmuel after the latter banned non-Givat Shmuel residents from using its popular parks for the next few weeks.

Givat Shmuel, which is dominated by members of the Religious Zionist community, had released a new directive allowing only people with a Givat Shmuel residency card into its Ramon and Elkana parks during the upcoming summer break. The new guidelines were adopted after the parks were swamped by visitors from Bnei Brak on Shabbat afternoon, which led locals to complain about the crowded conditions.

However, residents from nearby Bnei Brak cried foul, contending that the ban was designed exclusively towards members of the haredi community.

"If someone is referring to the residents of Bnei Brak, it is hostile to the haredi sector and I do not understand what the logic is," Bnei Brak Secretary-General Avraham Tannenbaum told Kikar Hashabbat. "They should be ashamed of themselves- this is plain hostility."

Givat Shmuel had announced the policy change on its Facebook page last week to a positive response from locals, with some residents expressing explicitly anti-haredi sentiments. "Who needs those black cockroaches from Bnei Brak" wrote one person.

However, the Givat Shmuel municipality denied that the ban was targeted towards haredim and clarified that it was meant to keep out members of nearby secular cities as well.

"We are not closing the park to Bnei Brak residents but to anyone who is not a resident of Givat Shmuel," a city official told Kikar Hashabbat. "The park will also be closed to residents of Tel Aviv and Kiryat Ono. Apart from this, we are talking about a few weeks in which during the afternoon the park will be closed to residents of other cities because there will be activities especially for the residents of Givat Shmuel."

A similar controversy erupted in the central city of Modiin in 2014 after Mayor Haim Bibas announced that haredim from the nearby Kiryat Sefer were not welcome in the popular Park Anabeh during the intermediate days of Succot. The ban was heavily criticized by the haredi community and by the civil rights group ACRI as discriminatory but the city remained defiant, pointing out the large amount of garbage left by haredim and opining that Modiin parks should be enjoyed by taxpayers only.