Entertainment industry snarls Jerusalem traffic in demand for aid

Israel’s entertainment industry remains shut down due to the pandemic, leading employers and workers to demand that the government provide ‘basic existence’  to stave off collapse.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Dozens of transport trucks from entertainment companies blocked traffic in and around Jerusalem last week with protest leaders demanding financial aid for their sector that has been crippled by the pandemic.

More than 60 trucks that normally carry sound and lighting equipment for concerts and events blocked the main Jerusalem highway leading into the capital and snarled morning rush hour traffic.

Health restrictions to stop the spread of coronavirus have closed the industry since lockdowns began in March, forcing some 200,000 out of work and leaving scores of companies on the verge of bankruptcy as unemployment soared to a record 27 percent.

“This morning we are leading 60 trucks of sound and lighting equipment that people haven not taken out the gear for 4 months. I have no ability to do any event. This entire industry is standing at zero revenue,” protest organizer Rami Beja, an event producer, told Kan Radio.

“When it is impossible to open our business because of one tragedy or another, it is time for the Israeli government to channel money to keep us alive. We are asking for a basic existence.”

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The group of trucks and some 100 protesters blocked the highway that is the main entrance to the city and planned to creep forward slowly to hold demonstrations outside the Ministry of Culture and the prime minister’s office, using the massive traffic jam to bring attention to their plight.

“The roadblocks and demonstration are coming because of the neglect of an industry that has collapsed over the past months caused by a country that continues to ignore the dire situation of 200,000 workers in our industry,” Beja said.

The coronavirus-related ban on large events ranges from weddings to rock concerts, none of which can be held yet under the government plan to gradually reopen the economy.

Entertainment sector workers got more bad news this week with the rise in coronavirus infections as many Israelis ignored health guidelines during the reopening.

With outbreaks resulting in over 100 school closures and more than 10,000 Israelis put into isolation to try and stop the spread, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that the government was hitting the “emergency brake.”

“We stopped all of the measures to ease restrictions that we were going to apply in the coming days. We will check this again next week,”  Netanyahu said.