Gas Mask Production Under Cloud

YERUSHALAYIM -
Unloading a shipment of gas masks from a truck outside a distribution center in Yerushalayim on August 29, 2013. Distribution of gas masks was at a frenzied height just a few months ago when the Syrians threatened.  (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Unloading a shipment of gas masks from a truck outside a distribution center in Yerushalayim on August 29, 2013. Distribution of gas masks was at a frenzied height just a few months ago when the Syrians threatened. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Reports that the Defense Ministry may soon cancel distribution of gas masks has made for an uncertain future for Israel’s main supplier, Supergum Industries in the Shomron, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Last week, defense sources said mask distribution was likely to cease, due either to an assessment that the chemical weapons threat has decreased, or due to budgetary constraints.

Currently, 60 percent of the population is equipped with masks.

Supergum Industries, located in the Barkan Industrial Area in Barkan, would have to lay off

hundreds of workers if the ministry stops orders.

“If they decide there’s a new situation in the Middle East and that the threat is gone, and if they reach a considered decision to stop production, I can’t fight against that,” said Gilad Golan, head of the CBN Department at Supergum.

Golan expressed skepticism, though, saying he was all too  familiar with past stops in production, which have “caused chaos in industries and ended up in price rises.” He was head of the IDF Home Front Command’s gas mask section.

“Until August, we had orders coming in, and activated one shift a day. In the middle of August, we doubled our workload, and the number of gas masks they wanted meant we were working 24 hours a day. Dozens of new staff were recruited. We ordered new components and raw materials. This was the situation until last week, when we heard in the media that it might stop. We were totally surprised,” Golan said.

Now, the company has slowed down production rates so that it can complete existing orders from the Defense Ministry by November 2014. “In light of this apparent decision, we don’t know what our status is. We’re not getting answers. Our fear is to wake up one morning and find that everything is canceled,” Golan added.