Sderot's industrial area cracks under the pressure

"They say patriotism requires a full stomach. Clearly, a hungry person has no reason to stay and work here," Hollandia International CEO says.

of kor kssam 224 (photo credit: Shelly Paz)
of kor kssam 224
(photo credit: Shelly Paz)
Hollandia International CEO Avi Bar-Ssessat is a man with a torn heart. "Even though I have already started to look for a new place to move the plant to, I know I must give our soldiers, who fight and endanger themselves inside the Gaza Strip, a reason to continue their fighting," Bar-Ssessat said on Thursday, explaining his preparations to move Hollandia's factory from Sderot because of the rockets from Gaza. The plant in Sderot's industrial area manufactures advanced sleep systems for sale in Israel and abroad. The factory's 130 employees come from Sderot and nearby communities. Bar-Ssessat told The Jerusalem Post Hollandia had been unable to fill 30 vacancies at the plant for a long time now. "Residents of Kiryat Gat, for example, can come and work here, but they don't get the benefits that a resident of Sderot who works here does. "The government should provide significant benefits to everyone who works in Sderot, and not just to the city's residents, if it doesn't want to see the entire industrial area closed," Bar-Ssessat said. "They say patriotism requires a full stomach. Clearly, a hungry person has no reason to stay and work here; many of them have left this city," Bar-Ssessat said. He said 2007 was a profitable year for Hollandia. "We entered the Russian and Swedish markets in a big way, and so we should have no reason to complain. But then I come here and see the people who don't take cover anymore when the Color Red alert is activated, who have lost the mental and physical strength to stay alive and well, who struggle with this inconceivable reality. "That makes our all achievements look worthless," Bar-Ssessat said. "The people here are in deep despair. On one hand, they need to build the best beds in the world, which represent us abroad. But on the other hand, their lives are constantly under threat while they are doing this, and it is infuriating that the government does not care," he added. Bar-Ssessat said that in recent weeks he had been actively searching for a new site for the plant, although he still hoped he could keep it in Sderot. Leaving Sderot's industrial area is simply impossible for the Of Kor chicken processing plant, which has absorbed 20 Kassam rockets and the death of one of its workers. Ya'acov Yaakobov, a father of four, was killed when a Kassam crashed through the ceiling and sent shrapnel into his head in November 2006. The plant has operated in Sderot since 1956 and employs 170 workers, 100 of them Sderot residents. There is one fortified room in the entire factory; it can hold 15-20 people, while everyone else takes cover in creative locations inside the plant. "A week ago the entire dining hall was ruined by a Kassam attack. The Environmental Protection Ministry closed us down for five days because of the asbestos hazard. We opened again on Wednesday and have been told that the state will not cover anything besides the physical damage that was caused to the building. Other than the fact that the people here have no shelter to hide in during a Kassam attack, most of them earn minimum wage and five days less in their salaries literally means less food on their tables," plant manager Yossi Hugi told the Post on Thursday. "We won't tolerate the Kassam rockets and unemployment. Shifting this plant would cost the owners millions of dollars because the cooling rooms and the equipment we use cannot be moved and would need to be rebuilt," Hugi said. "We demand only what we are entitle to. It is not our fault that the Kassams are being fired at us, but we will not agree to stay without a way to make a living." "Every day that ends with us well and in one piece is a good day," said one of the workers sitting outside of the Of Kor plant. "Money cannot replace good health, but the government can't guarantee us either one of these things."