Israeli Court Orders Kibbutz to Open Its Shore on Sea of Galilee

The Environmental Protection Ministry notes that a number of locations along the lake, like Kibbutz Ein Gev, remain inaccessible to the public.

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The Sea of Galilee: The inhabitants of Ohalo II lived on its shores 23,000 years ago, subsisting on hunting animals, fishing, gathering a ton of plants - and deliberately growing grain.
The Sea of Galilee.Credit: Gil Magen

The Environmental Protection Ministry chalked up a legal victory last week with a court forcing Kibbutz Ein Gev to open its shore on the Sea of Galilee to the public.

The breakthrough, part of an effort to ensure public access to the shore, came when the Afula Magistrate’s Court denied a petition filed by the kibbutz.

The community had sought to repeal an order by the ministry requiring Ein Gev to remove fencing and other impediments obstructing access to the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Kinneret.

The ministry issued its order to Kibbutz Ein Gev two years ago. In addition to ordering the removal of fencing, it required the community to dismantle an outdoor patio between Ein Gev’s waterfront fish restaurant and the shore.

The kibbutz argued that the shoreline protection law on which the ministry relied could not be enforced against parties with lease rights such as the kibbutz, which Ein Gev has had for decades.

These rights predated the shoreline protection law, Ein Gev said, adding that the facilities it built along the shore were installed with official approval and in accordance with the master plan for the area. The kibbutz acknowledged that the restaurant was expanded without a permit, but argued that this did not cause harm to the shore.

Magistrate’s Court Judge Shaden Nashef-Abu Ahmad, who toured the site before issuing her decision, ruled that even if the facilities at the site were built before the shoreline protection law went into effect, Ein Gev was obligated to obtain permits for facilities such as fences but failed to do so.

Fencing around a memorial site, which the kibbutz also sought to keep, could be arranged so that it would not obstruct access to the water, the judge ruled.

Yitzhak Ben-David, the ministry’s deputy director general for enforcement, criticized the planning and building committees in the area, particularly in the Jordan Valley region, which includes Ein Gev. He said they had been issuing building permits without a legal basis. The ministry noted that a number of locations along the Kinneret remain inaccessible to the public, or fees are charged for access.

For its part, the regional council said the council and the local planning committee will continue to act in accordance with the law.

“We are studying the court decision regarding Ein Gev,” the council said. “In general, the council believes that it is possible to combine the right to hike and conduct recreational activities along the shore with the rights of residents of the council region.”

The council called on the Knesset and planning authorities to give “the necessary sensitive consideration to the issue and find the right combination.”