Northern Israeli city rescinds ban on non-residents in its park deemed racist

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The northern Israeli city of Afula agreed to lift a ban on non-residents visiting its city parks, after being accused of trying to keep Arabs out.

The city said Sunday that the signs prohibiting non-residents from entering the parks would be removed by Tuesday, forestalling a ruling by the Nazareth District court, where a lawsuit was filed against the rule.

The lawsuit was filed by Adalah-The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

Rights groups charged that the city policy set in place a month ago was designed to keep Arabs from neighboring villages out of the city.

Afula Mayor Avi Elkabetz during his recent reelection campaign in November ran on a platform of “preserving the Jewish character of Afula,” and promised that “the conquest of the municipal park must stop. We must proudly hoist Israeli flags throughout the park and play music in Hebrew,” The Times of Israel reported.

Two investigations by television news programs also found that the ban on non-residents was only enforced when the family trying to enter the park was Arab.

The municipality said it made the decision to restrict entrance to the park to reduce overcrowding.