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April 9, 2014 By:
Israeli Diplomats Return After Strike
For the many people who were frustrated in their attempts to avail themselves of the services provided by the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia recently, April 3 was a very good day.
That was the day Israeli Foreign Ministry employees returned to work after 11 days on strike over a labor dispute.
That was good news to those in need of a passport or visa, said Elad Strohmayer, deputy consul general.
“It was very hard, because our job is to serve the community and help people and we had to say, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you,’ ” said Strohmayer.
In addition to not providing routine services such as issuing travel documents, consulate officials also had to cancel appearances or decline invitations to events in the region over the last month, said Strohmayer. And the consulate will not hold its annual celebration on Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, because they were unable to plan and send invitations, said Strohmayer.
Officials will still participate in the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia Independence Day event on May 18.
The strike, which shut down Israel’s 103 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world, came after a yearlong labor dispute over salaries and work conditions for diplomats. The Foreign Ministry Worker’s Union and the Finance Ministry reached an agreement to adjust diplomats’ salaries according to the cost of living in the country in which they are working and to provide compensation for spouses of diplomats for loss of work in their field.
The consulate in Philadelphia, which serves the mid-Atlantic region, has been in flux over the last year. In December, consul general Yaron Sideman announced that the office would remain open after months of talk that the Israeli government was considering closing it.
“Now that it’s over, I’m happy that I’m able to do my job,” Strohmayer said, “and to continue to represent Israel.”
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this story.