Are Tel Aviv and Herzliya Beaches Really Free of Charge?

Study shows that while beaches are technically free, a large portion of beach space is filled with chairs and umbrellas for hire.

The Tel Aviv and Herzliya municipalities take pride in their beaches being free of charge. But the beaches can be accessed without paying, if visitors want a chair by the water, that will cost.

The report by Zalul Environmental Association found that only a fifth of the water line is open to beachgoers not wishing to pay for chairs and umbellas.

The Tel Aviv municipality admitted that the problem exists and says it's trying to deal with it. The city of Herzliya on the other hand presented data that contradicts the Zalul Environmental Association's report.

Inarguably, more and more chairs and umbrellas for hire are appearing on the water line. Zalul activists recently carried out measurements, and aerial photos in several cities, including nine beaches in Tel Aviv and three in Herzliya.

According to the findings, only 20 percent of the water line was indeed open to the public free of charge, while beach concessionaires placed chairs and umbrellas for hire on the remaining 80 percent.

Thus, for example, at north Tel Aviv's Metzitzim Beach, only 25 meters of the 125-meter water line were truly free of charge. At Frishman Beach all 115 meters were occupied by chairs and umbrellas, and the same is true of the Gordon Beach water line. At Tel Baruch Beach only 10 meters of the 110 meter beach were left to the public.

In Herzliya, chairs and umbrellas for hire were placed on eight ninths of the Hasharon Beach.

Beachgoers are required to pay tens of NIS for the use of several chairs. At some beaches, beachgoers can use the chairs, placed by nearby reastaurants, only if they purchase food and beverages.

"The municipalities have expropriated the right to enjoy the beaches from the public," says Maya Jacobs, Zalul Environmental Association's director.

"The situation in some of the beaches is unbearable, without even one meter left for bathers who simply want to sit on a towel on the water line. The municipalities are actually driving the beachgoers to areas forbidden for swimming,” said Jacobs.

“Near the lifeguards stations, beachgoers are required to pay for chairs or to order food from the nearby restaurants. We intend to initiate legislation that would guarantee the public's right to enjoy the beaches and demand that the municipalities reveal their contracts with the concessionaires,” continued Jacobs.

The Herzliya Municipality responded to the report saying that of the 7 Kilometers of beaches in Herzliya 1.5 Kilometers are declared safe beaches, and that chairs and umbrellas cover only 20 percent of the water line in these beaches. The municipality repeated that all its beaches were open to the public free of charge.

Tel Aviv Municipality's response: "We're aware of the issue, and have drawn a new plan that will be implemented next year. The plan redefines and significantly reduces the areas allocated to businesses on the beaches. Meanwhile, inspectors were directed to issue warnings to businesses that exceed their allocated areas, and fine them when necessary."