Ben Gurion Airport to Shut Down This Shabbos, Yom Kippur-Style

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of Ben Gurion International Airport. (Flash90)

Workers at Ben Gurion Airport will go on strike this Shabbos, the union representing airport workers said Tuesday. The strike comes after Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri appointed a panel that would examine the possibility of collecting real-estate tax (arnona) from the airport. The strike will entail a complete closure of all services and a cessation of all incoming and outgoing flights other than emergencies — similar to the work schedule on Yom Kippur.

Currently, no taxes are levied on the airport, and local authorities and cities in the area of the airport have complained that they are forced to foot the bill to deal with issues of traffic, pollution and noise generated by the airport.

The Ministry hopes to raise some NIS 200 million from property taxes that it will levy, with the money to be used to compensate residents and local authorities. The amount of money residents in each town will get will be based on their location, distance from the airport, whether an air route is located above their town, or other factors.

Some of the towns whose residents can expect a refund are Lod, Or Yehuda, Yehud, Ramle, Elad, Be’er Yaakov, Azor, Shoham and Kfar Chabad.

The workers’ committee said it was unfair of the Ministry to begin the process of collecting taxes, as a case before the High Court dealing with the matter is pending. The establishment of the Interior Ministry panel “is a serious violation of trust, an attempt to set political facts before the court has had a chance to have its say,” the committee said. “We call on the Interior Ministry to wait until the case is heard before trying to set those facts.”

The committee added that it feared airport workers would be the victims of the new costs to the Airports Authority, which employs them. “Thousands of workers and millions of passengers will end up paying the price for this development, which will harm service and safety. The local authorities demanding that the airport pay may have forgotten, but many of the workers here live in their towns and pay taxes there.”