Above: A playground in the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev. (Flash 90)
Corrected at 10:39 am CDT
Do Playgrounds Tell Israel’s Story Of (Dis)Integration?
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Israel’s unequal treatment of Palestinians in Jerusalem and other areas was highlighted today when an Israeli court ruled in a case about…playgrounds.
The Jerusalem District Court ruled today that the City of Jerusalem must draft a plan to build playgrounds in two Palestinian neighborhoods, Shoafat (also spelled: “Shuafat”) and Beit Hanina, Ha’aretz reported.
The Tzahor nonprofit, described as an advocacy organization by Ha’aretz (and not to be confused with the similarly-named moderate Zionist Orthodox rabbinic group Tzohar), filed suit against the city nine months ago alleging the city was discriminating against Palestinians in the city by failing to equitably provide services. The suit used the playground disparity between Palestinian and Jewish neighborhoods to make its point to the court.
Representing Tzohar in the suit was Yosef Havilio, a former legal adviser to the City of Jerusalem.
The suit alleged the number of playgrounds per capita in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem is only 1% of the national average, and that the 1% is 30 times fewer than in the city’s Jewish neighborhoods.
There is one playground for every 1,000 residents in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem while there is only one playground for every 30,000 residents in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Shoafat and Beit Hanina. 60,000 Palestinians live in those two neighborhoods combined, but there are only two city-owned public playgrounds in total.
(A third playground was recently privately built by Palestinians who purchased the land and petitioned to have it zoned for public use.)
In contrast, there are allegedly 35 playgrounds for the 48,000 residents of the Jewish neighborhood of Ramot, 28 for the 17,000 residents of the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, and 56 for 44,000 people in Pisgat Ze’ev. (The latter two neighborhoods border or are very close to Shoafat and Beit Hanina.)
The suit asked court to order the city to build at least 10 new playgrounds in Shoafat and Beit Hanina over the next two years, with another 20 added on top of that within five years.
The city argued the lack of playgrounds wasn’t its fault. It argued Shoafat and Beit Hanina are unplanned neighborhoods with unregulated land ownership while the Jewish neighborhoods nearby are all regulated and pre-planned. The city argued Shoafat and Beit Hanina are comparable to densely populated haredi neighborhoods like Mea Shearim, which also lack adequate playgrounds, and gave the court documentation that it had tried – but failed – to build playgrounds in Shoafat and Beit Hanina.
The court did not buy the city’s arguments.
“Indeed, one cannot compare new, planned neighborhoods built on regulated land, with old neighborhoods whose process of development was not controlled or regulated,” Judge Nava Ben-Or reportedly wrote in her ruling. “However, the gap [in playground development] between the two types of neighborhoods is unreasonable to an extreme degree….”
Ben-Or ordered the city to immediately draft a plan to close that unreasonable gap.