Foreign Ministry strike may keep Maccabiah athletes at home

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Athletes from 14 countries may not be able to come to Israel for the  Maccabiah Games because of a strike by employees of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

The athlete need visas to enter the country, and the workers at Israeli embassies and consulates in the United States and around the world have halted all consular services, including issuing visas.

Maccabi World Union CEO Eyal Tiberger has asked that the workers make an exception and process the paperwork to allow the athletes, who have been training for more than two years and already have their tickets, to enter the country.

The workers’ union replied that it will provide services again “when the Finance Ministry decides to sit down for proper talks and negotiations.”

Exceptions are being made for medical emergencies, adoptions and transporting bodies for burial.

The halt in consular services was the latest salvo in a 3-month-old labor dispute.

The countries of athletes unable to come to Israel without visas are Armenia, Aruba, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia,Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Nicaragua,Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

The 19th games begin on July 18. More than 8,000 athletes are scheduled to participate in the two-week event.

Visas for Jews in the Diaspora who are scheduled to make aliyah also have been held up.

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