Israeli Court Orders Kibbutz to Tear Down Fence and Allow Public Access to Lake Kinneret

The Nazareth District Court rejects an appeal by Kibbutz Ein Gev that claims a fence is needed for security reasons

The northern fence of Kibbutz Ein Gev, which the court ordered to be removed.
Eli Gabai

A court has left in place a lower court’s order that a kibbutz must tear down fences that blocked the public’s access to Lake Kinneret – the Sea of Galilee in the north.

The decision on the 2-kilometer (1.2-mile) stretch by the Nazareth District Court will force the move by Kibbutz Ein Gev, which sits on the lake’s eastern shore. The kibbutz has until next month to remove the fences.

Five years ago, the Environmental Protection Ministry ordered the removal of the fence enclosing the kibbutz’s vacation village. This was part of an effort to remove other barriers that were put up over the years along the lake, limiting the public’s access.

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The kibbutz appealed, arguing that the law on shoreline protection provided an exception because the kibbutz had land rights on the shore before the law took effect.

But Judge Tammar Nissim Shai of the Nazareth District Court rejected this claim. In her ruling, she said the fences lay in an area designated for vacationing on the shore, where the kibbutz had no right to deny access.

She noted that the kibbutz was allowed to build structures for making profits there, such as kiosks or facilities for swimmers, but a denial of access was prohibited.

Nissim Shai also said the kibbutz’s lease with the Israel Land Authority explicitly stated that public access could not be restricted there. She added that if the kibbutz wished to put up a fence for security reasons, it could do so in a smaller area, allowing some privacy to guests at the vacation village without restricting access to the lake.

According to the Environmental Protection Ministry, even before the latest decision, the magistrate court’s ruling helped protect the shoreline. That ruling led to the removal of other fences and barriers along the coast, with a public-events garden closing shop and taking down illegally built structures.