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(photo credit: Courtesy Photo)
The Manufacturers Association of Israel successfully negotiated an arrangement with the Home Front Command to allow some of the North's 1,800 factories to function normally, the association said Tuesday.
According to the agreement, factories among the 250 industrial facilities located in the recognized conflict zone itself - the Hula Valley, the eastern Upper Galilee and the areas around Yehiam and Nahariya - would be permitted to call their workers back if they receive Homefront Command approval. The command's district defense captain must certify that work in the factories would take place in closed structures adjacent to protected spaces. Each factory must contact the captain directly in order to request the permit.
The vast majority of factories in these areas are currently closed, the association noted.
The 1,550 facilities located in other areas affected by Katyusha attacks from Lebanon - notably the areas around Safed, Karmiel, Tiberias, Haifa, the Krayot, Acre, Nesher, and Tirat Hakarmel - are subject to the same physical criteria, but do not require an individual permit from Homefront Command.
"It is of grave importance to have a strong homefront, which allows life to be run as normally as possible," said Manufacturers Association of Israel President Shraga Brosh.
Manufacturers from the area had expressed their desire to get back to work and begin production to maintain supply to clients and asked the association to lobby the government and Homefront Command to that end.
In a meeting of industrialists prior to the decision, Hanan Itai, representing factories at Kibbutz Dan argued that "there's no need to close the factories if a Katyusha falls once a day."
"We are at war, and in war you work harder, not less hard," he said.
Another manufacturer said that to keep foreign clients and avoid "a big complication" the factories need to get back to work as soon as possible,"with all the danger that involves," adding that "the whole question of defining the line of conflict [for compensation] is anachronistic."
Chicken product producer Mama Of'came to a similar agreement with the army independently and was able to reopen its Kiryat Shmona facility Monday after three days of closure, factory director Eli Ben Lulu said.
The company demonstrated that its facility was sufficiently armored, and also stressed its importance as a supplier to the army and the civilian population, he said.
"Chicken is number one in Israel. You can't not have chicken," he said, adding that since the beginning of the crisis the company has seen a "serious rise" in consumption of both refrigerated and frozen products. "People in the bomb shelters need food that's easy and quick to prepare," he commented.
The company also sells to grocery stores and supplies chains including McDonald's, Burger King and Aroma.
Despite precautions, the workers had to stop production twice since the factory reopened due to Katyusha attacks with a minimal work force of only 25 of about 150 workers, he noted.
"There are fantastic people in the North, who - despite everything - respond to the call and come to work," Ben Lulu said. "It's also important to maintain routine."
Separately, Tnuva, the parent company of Mama Of', said sales in the North were up 10% above the seasonal summer rise -primarily milk, cheeses and puddings.
In the Haifa area, toiletry and cosmetics producer Soft Touch also recommenced production Monday after one-and-a-half days of closure, said co-CEO and head chemist Yossi Segal, attributing the change to increasing optimism that the situation is improving and faith in the facility's armoring.
By Wednesday, the factory will likely have returned to routine function, he said, adding that already more than 90 percent of the work force is back on the job. Nonetheless, many neighboring factories in the Haifa Bay area remain closed, he said.