South African Jewish families wanting to emigrate to Israel have had to postpone their Aliyah due to worldwide labour sanctions put in place by the Israeli Foreign Ministry union of employees over ongoing wage disputes between them and the Finance Ministry.Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to Israel, which is a basic principal of Zionist ideology, therefore making it one’s legal right to assisted immigration and settlement in Israel as well as automatic Israeli citizenship.
But Shimon Shamila director of the Israeli Centre and representative of the Jewish agency in South Africa said up to 10 families from Cape Town and Johannesburg had been affected by the worldwide labour sanctions.
He said they have had to postpone their Aliyah to April 11 because certain documentation needs to be processed at the embassy first.
“Those affected by the sanctions are complaining and frustrated by the inconvenience although they do also at the same time respect Israeli employees and diplomats democratic right to strike,” said Shamila.
However, he said a special committee within the Foreign Ministry have made exceptions for three families who could wait no longer.
This follows reports made last week by the Israeli Foreign Ministry union of employees that they would no longer provide assistance to Israelis who are injured or arrested while abroad.
The union said Israelis who require aid while abroad should turn to the Finance Ministry.
The pay dispute has damaged Israel’s foreign relations, with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel having had to cancel their plans to visit the country.
Leader of the Israeli opposition party Kadima, Tzipi Livini, this week cancel her trip to South Africa following an invitation by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies to attend meetings and talks in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Pretoris, Hila Stern said almost a year of failed negotiations between the two ministries had eventually resulted in the deterioration of services relating to the processing of documentation at the Consulate since December last year.
This meant that visas were not being processed, lost passports could not be replaced immediately and search parties for missing Israelis, or other such aid, would not be conducted.
She said it was not known how long the sanctions would last but negotiations between the ministries was continuing.
Stern said the reason for the sanctions imposed by employees were due to low pay, slow promotion to higher ranks and a lack of retirement benefits.
But Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation, said South Africa was not affected by the issue.
Attempts to get comment from the Israeli Foreign Ministry were unsuccessful after employee’s union spokesperson Yaakov Livne failed to respond to questions sent to him. – Yugendree Naidoo, West Cape News