‘Historic’ strike: Israel shutting down; flights, medical services, pre-schools canceled

No takeoffs from airport, local authorities and main labor union going on strike, and universities shutting doors are some of the newest anti-government plans.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The mass protest against the government’s planned judicial reforms leapt up several notches Monday as a slew of shutdowns were announced that should affect every citizen in the country.

Histadrut Labor Federation head Arnon Bar-David announced a “historic” strike at a press conference in the morning. This is “the right way,” he said, “to bring the country back to sanity,” as “employers and employees link hands together and shut down the State of Israel.”

Bar-David maintained that this was not a political matter, “not an issue of right and left,” but that matters have simply come to a head and “we can’t tear apart the nation anymore.”

The Israel Medical Association joined the call, saying that all public hospitals and community clinics would stop all but life-saving treatments and services.

The head of the workers’ committee at the Airports Authority immediately announced the partial shutdown of Ben-Gurion Airport by preventing all departures while allowing planes to land. As of this writing, the strike had yet to go into effect.

Crowds were already witnessed at various airline counters as passengers who probably heard the news went to get information,or possibly change their flights.

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Local and regional government heads informed the press that they, too, would be joining the strike, even though Haim Bibas, head of the Federation of Local Authorities, is a stalwart of the ruling Likud party.

Bibas called for the reinstatement of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who was just fired for backing a halt to the judicial reform.

“The rift in the nation and the tremendous chaos that Israel is in has reached the point of almost no return,” Bibas stated in support of the strikes.

If the local administrations shut down, all parents of young children will have to rearrange their schedules, as pre-school assistants who are paid by the municipalities and councils will not be able to work, and the pre-schools will be forced to close.

Students at the other end of the educational ladder will also find themselves with free time on their hands, as the heads of Israel’s research universities announced already Sunday evening that they would be stopping all studies in their institutions in protest.

Professor Daniel Chamovitz, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said, “There are moments in the life of a nation when there is no place for considerations and interests, but only the good of the state and the good of the people….

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“We have chosen the dramatic step of suspending classes in all universities in the hope that… all our elected officials will sit down, talk and create an agreed-upon line of action. We have only one people, one country and one shared future.”

Many private colleges followed suit and said their doors would close as well.

The National Council of Students and Youth also called for high-schoolers not to attend classes, while making an exception for the special education track. In this case, the Education Ministry pushed back, saying all schools will remain open.

Private industry showed its support for the shutdown as well, with the Azrieli, Ofer and “Big” malls all announcing that their doors would close starting at noon on Monday, and the Fox chain saying it would go dark. Protest leaders among high-tech companies said they would shut the sector down, although the companies themselves made no such announcement.

Dov Amitai, chairman of the umbrella organization of businesses in Israel, warned that “the crisis is the greatest one since the Yom Kippur War.” He called for “all the party heads, from the opposition and coalition” to show responsibility, “stop this chaos now, stop the legislation and gather to negotiate until white smoke appears.”

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