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Tel Aviv Facing Complete Breakdown of Public Services

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Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city, is facing a complete breakdown of public services if striking municipal employes are joined by emergency maintenance personnel tomorrow.

Hospitals may be forced to close, traffic lights will cease operating, water pressure will drop and volunteer bucket brigades will be needed to put our fires. The city’s fire fighters in fact, staged a warning strike at noon today, parking their engines and equipment in front of City Hall.

The cause of the near chaos is the failure of the municipality to pay its employes their November wages which were due December 1. The city’s coffers are empty and the Treasury, so far, has refused to transfer funds to meet the payroll. Similar situations exist in towns and cities in other parts of Israel, a reflection of the nation’s economic crisis.

SCHOOL CHILDREN TOLD TO STAY HOME

Meanwhile, the Tel Aviv authorities ordered children to stay away from school today even though striking teachers agreed last night to return to their classrooms while their wage incease demands are adjudicated. The reason for the unscheduled holiday is the accumulation of rubbish in school buildings creating unsanitary conditions. The custodians are among the employes on strike for unpaid wages.

Uncollected garbage is piling up in the streets at the rate of 600 tons a day. A striking sanitation worker told reporters, “It’s lucky it’s winter. The stench would be unbearable in summer.” He added, “it’s a great time for the cats.”

Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lehat said he sympathized with the plight of the workers and blamed the government for leaving the city without funds. The Finance Ministry, in turn, accused Tel Aviv and other municipalities of mismanagement, contending that they used up their money for non-essentials. Lehat responded by citing the government’s huge and growing deficit. “Unlike us, they can print money when they run short,” he said.

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