Two senior officials at the Israel Electric Corporation were fired Tuesday for taking a break down south and refusing to help out after a severe winter storm knocked out power to tens of thousands of Israelis.
As he assured Israelis that Tuesday would see electricity finally fully restored in the aftermath of the snowstorm, IEC head Yiftah Ron-Tal said the heads of the company’s engineering division would be fired after spending the weekend in the southern seaside city of Eilat.
Two hundred of the company’s senior engineers, led by the two directors, had traveled to Eilat over the weekend to attend a space exploration workshop rather than joining the company’s efforts to alleviate the damage caused by the storm, called the worst in decades, and restore power to homes.
While some of the engineers returned north upon realizing the extent of damage caused by the storm, the directors chose to remain in Eilat.
Ron-Tal said the company’s board of directors had dismissed the two directors of the company’s engineering division, Ya’akov Chai and Eli Ya’akobi.
“They don’t belong in the company,” Ron-Tal said..
Calling the two “lawbreakers and disturbers of the peace,” Ron-Tal reportedly expressed concern that they would tarnish the company’s reputation if they were to remain in their posts.
At its height, on Friday, the storm knocked out power to some 60,000 homes around the country, including several thousand in the Jerusalem area. By Tuesday, the company said only a few homes in the capital remained without electricity, which would soon be restored.
Ron-Tal said IEC workers were going door to door in Jerusalem and other cities to make sure all households had electricity, as well as clearing the thousands of trees that had fallen on power lines, but that a full return of the electric grid to normalcy would take months.
IEC workers’ committee head Miko Tsarfati condemned the engineers’ absence, saying they should have shown solidarity with the 12,900 employees who had worked tirelessly to restore electricity to homes and entire towns that were hit hard by the storm.
“Their behavior was very bad,” Tsarfati said. “The engineering division heads miscalculated the state the company was in.”
He added that even if the engineers’ absence had no practical implications for the company’s work during the storm, it still wasn’t justified.
“Our employees’ dedication should be absolute, and we could have found other tasks for them to carry out, such as assisting in transporting diesel fuel and so on,” Tsarfati was quoted as saying.
Though employees were praised for working even during the height of the storm, which dumped about half a meter of snow on Jerusalem and more elsewhere, the IEC came under harsh criticism for not having been better prepared for the storm.
Ron-Tal said Tuesday the company would learn from the damage caused during the storm and assess readiness for worst-case scenarios.