Israel’s security coordinators in local communities are on strike, demanding better compensation. They are known in Hebrew as “Ravshatzim,” which is an acronym for the Hebrew words that mean “security coordinators in cooperation with the military.”
As part of their strike, hundreds of Ravshatzim this week held a demonstration in front of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s home. Some shouted, “On your watch – the blood of Israeli citizens has become ownerless (as in unguarded property).”
They also held up signs that read, “My children, wake up, security is worth more,” “The Ravshatzim are not politics – this is human life” and “Gantz, don’t abandon our security.”
The Ravshatzim chose to demonstrate at Benny Gantz’s home because, they said, he ignored their demands – made over the past few months – to recognize them as employees of the Ministry of Defense while improving their terms of employment. Such a recognition could entitle them to salaries and benefits commiserate to any government civil servant in Israel, like IDF personnel and police.
The Ravshatzim are unseen by the public at large, do not wear uniforms, and are not acknowledged in Israel among the country’s different security services on memorial days or on the many monuments for the fallen found around the country. But they are responsible for the security of more than 430 different towns around Israel and the lives of tens of thousands of people.
The people who do this job are generally residents of towns with special security concerns, such as those all throughout Judea and Samaria, near international borders.
Ravshatz is more than a full-time position and it certainly is not a 9-to-5 kind of job. The Ravshatzim must be in continuous contact with the police and the IDF and work directly with the reserve units that patrol their areas.
This means frequent attendance at briefings where they update new military units on what needs to be done, and the local security situation and receive briefings themselves.
This also means being available at any time – day or night – when an emergency situation occurs. And this is not limited to terrorist events. It also includes any kind of natural disaster or a local fire.
In recent weeks, for example, all of the Ravshatzim have been forced to put in a great deal of time dealing with the emergency situation caused by the terrorist killing of IDF Sgt. Noa Lazar. Tamimi on October 8th, who was gunned down while manning a security checkpoint in northern Jerusalem. The terrorist who killed her – Udai Tamimi – was the subject of a wide manhunt until he was killed while attempting another terror attack at a checkpoint at the entrance to Ma’ale Adumim.
And every year the holiday season, which just ended in Israel, means heightened security for all of these communities because terrorists often try and attack civilians on holidays. This means that holidays bring more work for the Ravshatzim and not less. And this past month saw a number of shooting attacks directed at security forces and private security guards all around Judea and Samaria.
A source in the IDF who works in the training of the Ravshatzim told TPS, “This strike is one of the most justified of strikes to take place in Israel. We are speaking about a problem that has been allowed to continue for many years.”
“The Ravshatzim today, in the eyes of the State of Israel,” he added, “is inseparable from the nation’s security system in that they are relied upon in the same way as with any security device, such as cameras or alarms and weapons.”
The problem, explained the source, is that they work so hard without getting any kind of social benefits (sick days, pension, etc.); even though, they must be on call every hour of the day. Not only that, whenever they leave the town where they work they must first ensure that a replacement is available there to assume their responsibilities and coordinate their travel with the IDF.
They are also responsible for all of the weapons and the armory in their towns and keep track of every weapon held by a resident. But, even though the weapons are provided by the military, they are not considered IDF or Defense Ministry employees, but as employees of the town.
“This situation cannot continue,” declared the source.
According to their union, Ravshatzim earn just 12 shekels an hour and work 24/7. Today many of them police officers throughout Israel have 3 sources of employment: the first is the Ministry of Defense, the second is the settlements and local authorities, and the third is the IDF which provides their professional training. Now they are demanding to be absorbed as employees of the Ministry of Defense, something they assert that will dramatically improve the safety of the residents of the communities they protect.
Their union said that for these reasons, and more, they chose to strike.
Itai Hoffman, chairman of the union, said, “The Defense Minister does not see us as human beings and does not provide us with adequate terms of employment, even though we are part of the security system in the State of Israel and fight together with the IDF and the security forces shoulder to shoulder. The security of over a million citizens of the State of Israel in the most threatened communities in the State of Israel has been severely compromised. The blood of the citizens of Israel cannot be wasted.”