Dozens of athletes scheduled to compete at the Maccabiah are waiting to receive entrance permits to Israel, and could miss the major international sporting competition because of an ongoing foreign ministry strike.
Maccabi World Union head Eyal Tiberger said that athletes from 14 different countries won’t be able to attend the “Jewish Olympics,” which opens July 18 in Jerusalem, because of labor sanctions being taken by Foreign Ministry workers which have shut down visa application processing.
He made the statement in early July to Foreign Ministry’s director general Rafael Barak, according to a Channel 2 report on Thursday.
According to Tiberger, delegation members from Azerbaijan, the Ukraine, India, Nicaragua and 10 other countries are dependent on the permits to travel and the strike prevents them from receiving them.
“We are asking to turn to the special case committee,” Tiberger wrote Barak, requesting it allow the diplomatic delegations to provide the needed paper work, even though exceptions were usually given only in order to save lives.
“The teams have been preparing for over two years, and have already purchased their flight tickets and packed their bags,” the Maccabi director wrote.
The workers’ union replied by saying the ball was in the treasury’s court. “For three months we took labor actions designed to prevent inconvenience to Israelis and those traveling to the country,” it said in a statement to Channel 2. “When the Finance Ministry decides to sit down for proper talks and negotiations, the workers will once again provide the paperwork needed to travel.”
A bitter labor dispute between Israeli diplomats and the Finance Ministry has been waging for months, and since April the workers’ union has been implementing sanctions aimed at disrupting Israeli officials’ visits abroad. Last week the workers took their strike a step further when they directed Israeli consulates abroad not to issue travel permits or other documents needed by Israeli travelers.
“The situation is such that one in three young diplomats in the ministry quits because they can’t make ends meet,” the head of the workers’ union, Yair Frommer, told The Times of Israel, describing what he said was the primary motivation for the labor action.
The Maccabiah is considered to be the third largest sporting event in the world, with over 8,000 athletes taking part in two weeks of competition in a variety of sports.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this article