TEL AVIV (Oct. 9)
Striking longshoremen at Ashdod went back to work late this afternoon after their leader, Yehoshua Peretz, told them to return to the docks and double and triple their output “to make Ashdod a port worthy of its name.” The dock workers struck on Tuesday, paralyzing the port and most of the rest of the town, after a local magistrate imposed what they thought was an unduly harsh sentence on Peretz for illegally closing down the port two months ago.
The wildcat strike that posed a test of Israel’s judicial process–whether a legally imposed sentence of a court could be challenged outside of the legal channels–was originally encouraged by the tough-talking Peretz who told his followers, “If you don’t see me, you close the town: that’s an order.”
But after a two-hour closed-door session with Histadrut leaders today, Peretz agreed to appeal his sentence to the higher courts and send his men back to work. He obviously bowed to heavy pressure–national opinion was mounting against him for idling the country’s second largest port–but as far as the workers were concerned, the decision was Peretz’s alone and Histadrut was willing to let it appear that way.
Joined by Histadrut Secretary General Yeruham Meshel before hundreds of longshoremen at the docks just before 5 p.m. local time, Peretz said he had faith in Israel’s judicial system; conceded that the judge was only human and was entitled to a mistake; and declared, “I, Yehoshua Peretz tell you to go back to work. I, Yehoshua Peretz tell you to double and triple your efforts,” Work was resumed tonight unloading ten ships which had been idle since Tuesday morning.