Israeli Public Park Bars Family Carrying Food Not Kosher for Passover

Michal and Barak Avivi from Tel Aviv wanted to go to Afula Park on the holiday. The security guard went through their bags and said no.

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Israelis hiking on Passover 2015.
Israelis hiking on Passover 2015.Credit: Tomer Applebaum
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

A Tel Aviv family was barred from entering a public park in Afula over Passover because their bags contained chametz, the leavened bread that Jewish tradition prohibits over the festival.

"People who went there with rolls, they didn't let them in, and they had to eat them at the entrance" of Afula Park, said Barak Avivi, a lawyer who said he was considering filing a class-action lawsuit after he, his wife Michal, their daughter and other children in the family, were among many visitors told they could not enter on Saturday because their food was not kosher for Passover.

Michal Avivi's Facebook post on the family's experience was shared thousands of times. Everyone who wanted to enter the park Saturday "underwent a meticulous search for chametz in all their bags," she wrote. "When I asked the security guard at the entrance why he wasn't letting them in, he said he received this 'democratic' directive from the park manager, who told him not to give in to anyone – Jews, Arabs, everyone!"

The Afula municipality defended the policy, citing 2008 Interior Ministry guidelines saying the purpose of Israel's so-called Chametz Law, which prohibits businesses in Jewish parts of the country from publicly displaying chametz products for sale or consumption, is "to prevent the display of chametz in the public sphere, to avoid insulting the public and maintain the character of the holiday."

"The Afula municipal park is a public facility that serves the residents of the city and its environs, and so the public is asked to refrain from bringing chametz into it during the holiday, as is customary in many other public institutions," the city said in a statement.

The city went beyond the chametz prohibitions set forth in Israeli law, "which only talks about selling and businesses, not about parks or private individuals," said Barak Avivi. "That means the Afula municipality decided to take the law into its own hands, to interpret it as it wants, to discriminate between those who keep kosher and those who don't."

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