Israel Struggles Back to Normalcy in Wake of Storm

YERUSHALAYIM -
Snow and ice still surrounds the Knesset on Monday. (Flash90)
Snow and ice still surrounds the Knesset on Monday. (Flash90)

Two days after the storm’s end, Israel was still struggling back toward normalcy on Monday, as thousands of citizens waited for their electricity to be reconnected, schools remained closed in Yerushalayim, Tzefas and elsewhere in the north, and travel on the roads continued to be slow and sometimes treacherous, if passable.

The light rail and buses in the capital weren’t operating until mid-morning, and the rest of public transportation in the capital wasn’t expected to run as usual until Tuesday, Ynet reported.

Pedestrians were also having a hard time. Magen Dovid Adom paramedics were dispatched to assist more than 100 people who slipped on ice and snow in Yerushalayim alone on Monday morning. The police requested that people refrain from driving their cars in the city, warning of dangerous, hidden patches of ice on the roads.

In Yehudah and Shomron, thousands of people left their homes due to the storm, and many of them were still finding it difficult to return as blocked roads and power and water disruptions continued to beleaguer the region. Schools were still closed on Monday in most places.

“The authorities have forgotten about us,” a resident of the Shomron region told Haaretz. “All aid and rescue activities we had to do with our own resources.”

The Israel Electric Corporation promised on Monday morning that by day’s end all of the remaining 8,000 households without power would be reconnected to the grid.

But even if IEC comes through and the lights are back on everywhere, the issues generated by the massive storm and the government’s dismal response to it are far from resolved.

In addition to calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the reasons why the government’s snowclearing operations were not shovel-ready when the storm hit, State Comptroller Yosef Shapiro announced that he will launch a probe of the matter. Shapira will be looking at more than snowplows, though. He plans to examine the performance of the the electric company, the municipalities, the police, and welfare agencies.

The Israel Electric Corporation brought further scorn upon itself on Monday when it became known that in the midst of the devastating storm, while tens of thousands were without power, approximately 200 IEC engineers went on a five-day seminar.

The group ignored a direct plea from IEC management to cancel their plans and return to work to help deal with the emergency.

In response, the head of the engineers committee said that the seminar participants were not field workers, nor were they all engineers. He noted, as well, that the CEO of IEC was not in a position to criticize them, as he himself was out of the counttry during the crisis.

Also on Monday, Israeli consumers learned that as a result of crop damage estimated at 100 million shekels caused by the storm, shortages would mean a rise in vegetable prices.

Suppliers warned that tomatoes, peppers and avocados may be scarce and expensive in the coming days.

Meanwhile, the Knesset cancelled legislative activity on Monday due to ice on the roads to the Knesset.

“It’s still difficult and dangerous to get through the main roads to Yerushalayim,” said Speaker Uri Edelstein in announcing the closure. “The Knesset’s work does not only rely on its 120 members, but also on hundreds of staff members, faction workers and parliamentary aides, and we must think of them in light of the dangers on the roads and the fact that schools are still closed.”