Beachgoers in Tel Aviv.
Beachgoers in Tel Aviv. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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Hadar Cohen
A lifeguard post at a Tel Aviv beach. Photo by Hadar Cohen

The beach is meant to be a public resort that is accessible and available to all. This is especially important in a small, crowded country like Israel. But despite the efforts of social activists and environmental organizations to maintain the seaside as a resource open to the public, the beaches' commercialization is continuing and various development plans threaten to gnaw and erode the sandy areas.

An examination conducted by the environmental association Zalul last week found that many Dan region beaches are controlled by franchise owners, who fill them up with beach umbrellas and chairs and charge money for their use. This considerably reduces the free area accessible to the public.

The Tel Aviv Municipality, in whose jurisdiction this trend is aggravated, agrees there's a problem, but so far has taken no concrete step to deal with it.

On other beaches, admission fees are still being charged, and not always in keeping with the Interior Ministry's rules and restrictions. In addition, franchisees still hold private functions on the beach. Various construction projects threaten the beaches, such as the plan to build resort villages in Hof Carmel, Nitzanim and Western Galilee. Although these villages are not being built on the beach strip itself, they surround it with a construction belt that damages the landscape and spoils the natural beach atmosphere. This problems is especially acute since so few natural beaches remain on Israel's coast. In Herzliya the authorities are planning to build a promenade that could reduce the sandy beach area.

Eight years ago a law to ensure the beaches' protection was enacted, and it improved the situation, especially by halting seaside building plans. But in view of how commercial bodies are taking over the beaches, the law and its enforcement are still a far cry from keeping most of the beaches open to the public, free of charge.

The main responsibility for preserving the beaches as a public resource lies with the local authorities, which must restrict construction and development plans and ensure that commercial bodies do not breach their contracts. Responsibility lies with the Interior Ministry, which issues permits for charging entry fees to the beaches, for supervising this activity.