Despite Owners, Iconic Jerusalem Pool Will Stay Open

A Jerusalem court ruled Tuesday that an iconic year-round swimming pool in the capital's German Colony will remain open in its current form, despite its owners intention to rezone the area as residential.

Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge Tamar Bar-Asher Zaban accepted the lawsuit filed by the municipality and local planning and building committee. Bar-Asher Zaban ruled that an 1980 agreement prohibiting the owners from building on or rezoning the pool remains legally binding.

That agreement, she ruled, obligates the owners to operate the pool has it been until now, unless they are able to persuade the city to change the master plan and thereby overturn the agreement.

Bar-Asher Zaban wrote that the half-century-old Olympic-size pool "was born in controversy. Longtime residents of Jerusalem probably remember the protests that accompanied its construction - and its opening to the general public in 1958.

"Those demonstrations, which placed the bitter disagreements between the city's ultra-Orthodox and secular residents squarely into the local discourse, led to heated verbal attacks on the mayor at the time, the late Gershon Agron, for allowing the pool to be built. Things were so bad that for years, there were those who called it 'Abomination Pool.'

"Maybe one of these days the pool will indeed be closed, if Jerusalem city hall decides to overturn the 1980 agreement or change the master plan for the area," she wrote. "We can only hope that if that happens, it will be done with consideration of the public good, so that the firestorm that accompanied the pool's creation doesn't return upon its closure."

When pool members were informed a year ago of the owners' intention to close it, they banded together with the neighborhood-administration group Ginot Ha'ir to pressure the municipality to prevent its closure.

In September, they filed a lawsuit against the owners, the Jerusalem-area Moshav Shoresh and the Elah Brothers contracting firm.

Shimon Bigelman, chairman of the committee to save the pool, said yesterday, "We're happy that our campaign against the tycoons has succeeded. Once again we've proved that a just public campaign can bring results.

"We hope the pool will be renovated and improved to meet 21st-century standards, and that entry prices will again be affordable," he said.