Treasury approves NIS 8m. for South

Additional budget will be used to equip shelters with mattresses, blankets, heaters.

Sderot bomb shelter 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Sderot bomb shelter 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
An NIS 8 million assistance package will be allocated to local authorities to improve emergency facilities in the South, the Finance Ministry and the Interior Ministry announced Monday. "Cooperation between government ministries is crucial, in particular in a situation in which the home front has turned into a battlefront," Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On said. "Government ministries need to take action in an effort to strengthen the residents in the South and to continue to provide them with essential services." The additional budget will be used by the Interior Ministry to strengthen fire and rescue facilities, equip shelters with mattresses, blankets and heaters, and for any additional expenses local authorities might be faced with. The need for an assistance program was established after the Interior Minister and the ministry's director-general visited local authorities in the South and the Gaza Strip periphery last week. The Finance Ministry and the Interior Ministry said they would continue to cooperate and provide solutions as necessary. Bar-On dismissed estimates in the Hebrew press regarding the cost of the war, saying there was no disagreement with the Defense Ministry over financing it. "The different estimates and numbers that appeared in the press regarding the cost of the war in the South are wrong," he said. "The Finance Ministry and the Defense Ministry have agreed to postpone all discussions regarding the cost of the operation until it is over. Now is not the time to deal with these matters. The Finance Ministry fully supports the defense forces and the residents in the South and the Gaza Strip periphery and will do everything to provide solutions so that the goals can be achieved." During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the average cost of each IDF reservist was about NIS 450 per day; translated into a call-up of 10,000 reservists would put the cost at NIS 4.5 million a day, not including other military costs. As tens of thousands of IDF reservists are called up for combat in Operation Cast Lead, and workers in the South have trouble arriving at work, businesses are coming up with creative and supportive solutions to cope with the situation. Yavne-based Multilock, which employs many workers from Ashkelon, Ashdod and nearby places, has set up an activity center for four to 12 year olds operated by an outside company. It is being attended by about 80 children so that their parents can go to work. At Coffee Tim, a coffee maker based in Yavne, many employees have been called up to the army and the ones who remain are putting in additional hours to make up for shortage. They are also bringing their children to work. The children are being given administrative tasks for a symbolic salary of NIS 300 to NIS 500 a week. Ophir Tours, which has branches across the country, has so far kept its three branches in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Kiryat Gat closed. Over the past week, the company has connected the workers of the three branches to home computing systems so that they can continue to provide services to private and business customers from home. At Ilan's coffee chain, which has 14 branches, 10 workers, including two branch managers, were called up to the army and more call-ups are expected over the next few days. During reserve duty, the National Insurance Institute pays workers' salaries. Since employees at coffee places earn part of their income from customers' tips, the coffee chain said it would pay workers on reserve duty the approximate value of the tips they are losing.