Hundreds of thousands of passengers pass through Ben Gurion International Airport every week and many of them arrive during busy hours and have to stand in line for many hours. Many airports around the world are experiencing the same problem this summer, but according to reports, at Ben Gurion Airport things are especially rough. The lines are so long, that they twist and wind Disneyland style all the way to the terminals’ entrance doors.
Ben Gurion International is also experiencing a lengthy and severe manpower shortage. The Airports Authority currently employs about 400 reinforcements who rush to help at critical hours of extra jamming, sometimes even from their homes in the middle of the night.
On Monday, former Transport Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism), wrote his successor, Merav Michaeli (Labor): “Recently, the system of handling passengers at the Airports Authority has been in complete collapse, with endless queues, suitcases that are lost and do not reach their destination, and extraordinary public outrage. For a whole year, you could have prepared for the return of the airport to full use and didn’t do what was necessary – and the public is paying the price.”
Smotrich noted that the Airports Authority has launched an extensive campaign to immediately recruit employees in various positions to alleviate congestion and improve service. However, he added, “My office has recently received inquiries from traditional Jews whose applications were rejected due to their faith. The authority’s response explicitly states that as part of the work, the employee is required to work shifts on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.”
“First of all, this abominable practice that directly harms many of the country’s citizens who wish to rest on Shabbat must of course be changed immediately, since discrimination in the workplace based on one’s religious belief is inherently wrongful,” Smotrich wrote, adding: “In light of the extraordinary manpower shortage which impacts all Israeli citizens, this is a significant opportunity to change attitudes, and allow the absorption of many workers on weekdays to ease the pressure on the airports. Opening up the Airports Authority to employees who work on weekdays will add many thousands of workers the authority needs like oxygen.”
Smotrich’s appeal makes even more sense in light of reports in Israel’s media that the best time to fly out of Ben Gurion Airport is during the day on Shabbat, when the place is almost empty – meaning that the requirement of new employees to desecrate Shabbat has nothing to do with actual needs, only with an age-long tradition of discrimination.