Jerusalem Must Plan Playgrounds for Palestinian Neighborhoods, Court Orders

Ruling is response to suit filed by residents of Shoafat and Beit Hanina.

The playground in Beit Hanina that was built on land purchased by residents.
Emil Salman

Jerusalem must draft a plan to build playgrounds in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Shoafat and Beit Hanina, the Jerusalem District Court has ruled.

The ruling was in response to a suit filed against the city over nine months ago on behalf of residents of the two East Jerusalem neighborhoods by Yosef Havilio in the name of the Tzahor nonprofit advocacy organization. Havilio is a former legal adviser to the municipality.

The number of playgrounds per capita in the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem is just one percent of the national standard and 30 times smaller than in the city’s Jewish neighborhoods, according to the suit.

On average, the petitioners claimed, there is one playground for every 1,000 residents in Jewish neighborhoods, compared to one per 30,000 in Shoafat and Beit Hanina. These two neighborhoods, with a combined population of 60,000, have just two playgrounds, according to the suit. A third was built recently, after residents purchased the land themselves and had it zoned for public use.

By way of comparison, the plaintiffs claimed there are 35 playgrounds for the 48,000 residents of Ramot, 28 for the 17,000 residents of nearby Ramat Shlomo, and 56 playgrounds for 44,000 people in Pisgat Ze’ev.

The plaintiffs asked the court to order the city to build at least 10 playgrounds over the next two years and another 20 within five years in these neighborhoods.

In its response to the suit, the city argued that it is impossible to compare Jewish neighborhoods that were planned in advance with spaces earmarked for playgrounds, with unplanned Palestinian neighborhoods, where land ownership is unregulated. The Palestinian neighborhoods are comparable to the city’s densely populated ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, which are also short on playgrounds, the city said. The city also submitted evidence of its efforts to build playgrounds in Palestinian neighborhoods.

In her ruling, Judge Nava Ben-Or rejected the city’s explanations. “Indeed, one cannot compare new, planned neighborhoods built on regulated land, with old neighborhoods whose process of development was not controlled or regulated,” she wrote. “However, the gap [in playground development] between the two types of neighborhoods is unreasonable to an extreme degree. I also believe there can be no comparison between the possible mobility of the populations in western neighborhoods of the city with the mobility of the residents in the eastern neighborhoods.