A war of words between neighboring municipalities heated up on Tuesday when the mayor of Modi’in threatened to ban ultra-Orthodox visitors from his municipal park in response to the mayor of Modi’in-Ilit declaring an archaeological park out of bounds to secular visitors.
The two towns are located on opposite sides of Route 443 in central Israel and seem to now be headed toward cultural isolation as well as physical separation.
According to Haaretz the spat began when Yaakov Gutterman, the mayor of the ultra-Orthodox town of Modi’in-Ilit, declared in his party’s journal that the Second Temple archaeological site B’ad Issa, located within his municipality, will only permit entry to the ultra-Orthodox.
“The site will be open to Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) visitors alone, who can then connect to their historical roots, without distortions and distractions that are found at other places where there is a danger, God forbid, that they will hear false ideas or even heresy,” Gutterman wrote.
Haim Bibas, mayor of the mixed religious and nonreligious town of Modi’in, responded by letter to Gutterman, telling him that since its opening two years ago, the Modi’in city park Anabe has been swamped by visitors from Modi’in-Ilit who have gone so far as to demand that functions within the venue be appropriate for an ultra-Orthodox audience. While noting that he doesn’t believe in segregation, Bibas threatened to ban residents of Modi’in-Ilit from entering the Anabe park unless Gutterman reverses his decision to make B’ad Issa out of bounds to nonreligious visitors.
The Ba’d Issa site was declared a national heritage site in May 2011 and is now undergoing a NIS 4 million refurbishment.
It is unclear by what authority either mayor would propose to ban visitors to the sites in their municipalities based upon level of religiosity.