South Tel Avivians Cry Foul Over Lack of Country Club

Social activists in Tel Aviv's Kfar Shalem neighborhood have launched a public campaign calling on Mayor Ron Huldai and his officials to keep their election promise to build a country club there.

"Two months before the elections, we sent a petition to the mayor demanding he build a country club," activist Efraim Pinhasi said. "The municipal official in charge of community, youth and sports, Oded Hubara, called everyone who'd signed the petition about two weeks before the elections, promising that after the elections the city would build a country club here."

Another activist, Ofer Ramati, said that a few months after the elections city officials summoned the managers of the local community center, Beit Barbour, to a meeting to tell them that a country club would not be built there due to lack of funds.

"They said they would only renovate the sports facilities we already have," Ramati said.

The neighborhood's 45,000 residents have to make do with a small crowded gym without any showers, and a swimming pool in Beit Barbour open just three months a year (during the summer).

The activists say the city's south has only one country club - located in the Kiryat Shalom neighborhood - while the city center and north boast three municipal sports centers and several private ones.

Kfar Shalem's Galit swimming pool was closed down and demolished a few years ago because, according to the activists, no celebrities reside in the south who would lead a public campaign - as they did to protest the city's plan to close down the Gordon swimming pool in the center of the city.

"When you compare the situation here to the Gordon [swimming pool], it's annoying," said Pinhasi. "There the city invested tens of millions and here they can't find the funds to invest for almost 50,000 residents."

City councillor and Hatikva Quarter committee chairman Shlomo Maslawi (Likud), who made a list of the city's country clubs, swimming pools and sports facilities, found that the city maintains four country clubs - in the northern neighborhoods of Lamed and Neve Sharet, in the Tel Aviv Towers east of the city's center and in the southern area of Kiryat Shalom. Tel Aviv University also operates a swimming pool and sports facilities.

The activists say that unlike the north of the city, where residents have country clubs close to their homes, the southern residents have none.

"There is no roofed, heated swimming pool in the south apart from the one in Kiryat Shalom," said councillor Aharon Maduel, secretary of Kfar Shalem's residents' committee.

"When you compare the city's huge investment in the Gordon swimming pool, which is used by mere hundreds of bathers, to the investment in the south - where there are tens of thousands of people - you see how the city is depriving the southern residents of their needs," he said.

A spokesman for the Tel Aviv municipality said: "The mayor has instructed finding resources to complete the plan. The matter is under examination and will be decided in the next few days."