Fire truck protest convoy to J'lem slows traffic

A number of fire trucks pulled over by police, end convoy parallel to ULA strike on budget cuts.

Fire Truck 248.88 (photo credit: )
Fire Truck 248.88
(photo credit: )
Police succeeded in freeing up traffic on Route 1 from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by pulling over the convoy of fire trucks that set out in a protest, reported Army Radio. The protesting firefighters hoped to arrive to Jerusalem, slowing traffic along the way by driving at low speeds, after which they planned to block the entrance to the capital. Dozens of fire trucks from the Israeli Fire and Rescue Services on Sunday morning left in a convoy from the Sha'ar HaGai interchange between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and drove slowly toward the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. The convoy was the latest in six weeks of protests by the fire department, and came alongside strikes currently underway or planned by various departments of the Union of Local Authorities (ULA), including schoolteachers and garbage workers. Traffic was reported to be slow on Route 1 between Latrun and Shoresh. An Army Radio reporter caught in the traffic jam at 9:00 a.m. said that traffic on that stretch of highway was moving at 5 kilometers per hour. Yoav Tadasi, head of the Firefighters Union, expressed frustration at what he views as neglect on the part of the government. "We cannot continue to work this way. We are lacking fire trucks, we are lacking equipment.... No fire department in the world can work this way!" he exclaimed in an interview on Army Radio. Hundreds of garbage trucks were also expected to form a convoy to the capital on Sunday. As part of the ULA strike, schools - except for special education institutions - as well as other municipal services, were expected to be closed in many cities, including Ramat Gan, Sderot, Kiryat Shmona, Shlomi, Acre, Hatzor, Metulla, Kiryat Motzkin, Kiryat Bialik, Kiryat Ono, Netivot, Dimona, Ofakim and Kiryat Malachi. In Nahariya, junior high schools and high schools were on strike. In Katzrin and Kiryat Ata, kindergartens were closed. Arab local authorities announced over the weekend that they, too, were joining the strike, and that there would be no school in Arab communities on Sunday morning. Conversely, several cities announced their schools would open as usual, among them Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Ashdod, Herzliya, Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Ra'anana, Netanya, Ramle, Tiberias and Hod Hasharon. The decision to strike came after a NIS 3 billion budget cut the ULA says the government inflicted on the local authorities' budget. According to ULA Chairman Shlomo Buhbut, the strike was intended to be a warning to the government and would last for two days. If the government doesn't meet the ULA's demands, however, Buhbut has said that a full strike, without time constraints, would begin after Succot. A demonstration by some 130 local authority heads was also planned to take place outside the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office on Monday. Other municipal services such as garbage collection were also expected to be included in the strike. Abe Selig contributed to this report.