'Ikea Is Packed and Israeli Police Are Concerned About Surfers?'

One surfer who was fined for violating coronavirus regulations said that he lives within the 500-meter limit allowed for sports activities. But now the government says it would to allow surfing

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A surfer at an Ashkelon beach, February 24, 2020
A surfer at an Ashkelon beach, February 24, 2020Credit: Ilan Assayag

Israeli police on Friday handed out more than 10 fines and detained two surfers on beaches in Tel Aviv and its southern suburb of Bat Yam, where dozens of people went surfing, despite a ban on going to the beach.

Forces used a helicopter, a boat and jet skis to order surfers to leave the water and comply with the Health Ministry’s regulations, but surfers say they are being unfairly targeted by the police.

Corona keeps Bibi in power and unmasks the MossadCredit: Haaretz

One of them said in an Instagram post that he lives only 400 meters (1312 feet) away from the beach, still within the 500-meter limit allowed for sports activities. “A 500-shekel ($142) fine is too much for me,” he wrote, “I’m on unpaid leave and so is my wife. So I decided to stay in the water.”

Another surfer also said he lives about 200 meters away from the beach in Tel Aviv. “I got a fine I’m not even sure what for,” he said.

A police helicopter makes an announcement to surfers, Bat Yam, April 25, 2020Credit: Israel Police spokesperson

“The problem is inequality in enforcement,” said Lior Zamir of the Israel Surfing Association. “The streets are busy, Ikea is packed full of people, parks are crowded, and the police are concerned about surfers? What’s happening here just doesn’t make sense.”

He said his association was trying to convince Israel’s sports and health ministries to include surfing in the list of permitted solitary activities, and on Saturday it was announced that such a decision was made and be brought to a government vote on Sunday.

The proposed regulations stipulate no "unnecessary" time at the beach and a two-meter distance between surfers kept at all times. Swimming will also be permitted.

Arkady Kazarian, a surfer from Bat Yam who witnessed the arrest of a fellow surfer on Friday, said such police actions have been going on for several weeks. Last Sunday, a woman whose two sons were surfing at sea was detained after refusing to show an ID. Two weeks ago, a group of surfers, some of whom were minors, were fined in the northern city of Nahariya.

“There were about 20 surfers and a helicopter came to summon us,” Kazarian recalled. “Right after that a boat came and police officers were waiting for us on the beach,” he said, adding that many people were strolling along the beach in violation of the ban. “People just stood there and watched as if it was some kind of a show.”

The Israel Police said “dozens of surfers violated the orders and hurt their health and the public’s health.” Most of them, the police said in a statement, left after being ordered to do so, and those who refused were given fines.

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