UTJ Proposes Separate Swimming in National Parks

By Hamodia Staff

United Torah Judaism MKs Rabbi Moshe Gafni (center), Uri Maklev (left) and Yaakov Asher. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM — United Torah Judaism on Tuesday advanced a measure to provide separate swimming hours for men and women in Israel’s national parks, The Jerusalem Post reported.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni along with MKs Uri Maklev and Yakov Asher presented a bill in the Knesset to mandate about 15% of operational hours for bathing at national parks and nature reserves be segregated.

Explanatory notes attached to the proposed law state that at least 20% of Israel’s population refrain from bathing in mixed areas in respect of Jewish law. It is, in effect, a discriminatory practice enforced by the government, which oversees these sites that should be accessible to everyone.

In response, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority told the Post that “the nature authority, by virtue of its state role, is responsible for the management and operation of nature reserves and national parks, and within this framework works as much as possible to make these sites accessible to all populations while preserving the values of nature, heritage and landscape.”

The authority added that it will study the bill if it is passed and then act accordingly.

The bill will face opposition. Labor Party leader MK Merav Michaeli and Yesh Atid MK and former Social Equality Minister Merav Cohen immediately voiced objections, the latter calling it “another step that will only antagonize people against the chareidim.”

However, the right-wing human rights group Btsalmo was supportive.

Speaking to Yisrael Hayom, Btsalmo CEO Shai Glick said that “in the state of Israel there is a large religious and chareidi population, as well as a Muslim population, who do not bathe in mixed spaces. This public also has a right to enjoy natural resources.

“It is not about religious exclusion or coercion, G-d forbid, but about a solution that is suitable to each and every person according to their faith and lifestyle.”

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