Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

To fall from a great height

Falling from a great height has many connotations but in Israel, its invariably connected to falling off a building or a crane or other construction, which has no safety precautions or even regulations.

So who are those who fall? Good question. They are nameless and faceless individuals who because they either trained for building and construction labour or cannot get any other work, seek that means of earning a livelihood. Often leaving home in the early hours because some live far from the construction sites.  In an organised society where insurance is one of the bigger money making industries and is in many cases compulsory where employers are meant to take care of those who work for them, one would expect that they will be assured of as its known in the UK “health and security”arrangements and conditions.  Their employers are also supposed to be insured for a 3rd party. In other words, there is supposedly trust on both sides that the worker will fulfill his obligation and the employer will ensure his employee’s safety and security during the time he is employed. That includes if he is a passenger in a tender or truck traveling to his place of work.

In Israel, it’s not even news anymore. So another poor sod has hit the deck. In most cases the result is death or serious injury which can be worse than death. The fact is that in our country there is very little “accountability” which should start at the top in the Knesset and through our organised society.

One can forgive maybe a small time employer who has a small crew of workers and is personally involved in their lives. He may make overtures to his workers and give them perks. However, his first responsibility must be to provide safe conditions.

Every day in Israel another construction site is born. The building industry is massive and invasive. We are all affected if rules and regulations are not observed. From people who have to push their strollers on pavements which suddenly are obstructed, to the pollution from dust noise and more.

Our neighbourhood  was once as a sleepy area populated by new immigrants who lived in what was known as RAKEVOT — trains. They were structures of 4 tiny flats up and four below and resembled the old-fashioned train carriages. All around they building like mad.

Every time one section is obliterated, it is replaced by an eight-story block. So we are witness to the “in your face” disregard for basic workers rights and to death traps which are balconies without rails and thin wooden slats seemingly as the precaution, against falling. They would not prevent any child who accidentally leaned against them from falling to his death. Certainly not an earnest worker with tools in had and back to the rail.

Furthermore, the protective so-called fences around these constructions made from the cheapest form of materials, start to collapse almost as soon as they are put in place which infringes on the public space.

Recently one such luxury block of apartments went up next to us. They called the project “High Living” I reported all the hazards I had both expeienced and witnessed, to the Tel Aviv municipality who said it was no concern of theirs. I took photos and sent them to the address on the billboards. I asked the workers if there was a manager of the site but everyone was close-mouthed. In other words, I gave up.

My grandson from England was visiting and he works for one of the biggest users of construction companies in the UK. He said to me when he saw the site”Safta that would never be allowed in the UK” There would be an injunction on the builders and the developers.

Fortunately, no one fell on that site but in the road parallel to us, a building worker fell to his death on a site, such as I mentioned.

The bottom line is, there is no one to talk to. .So maybe one should approach those who benefit financially from all these enterprises and dissolve licenses for construction, where these infringements of moral and basic laws are discovered.

What hurts me most is that those who use these buildings after construction are either young couples who have dreamed of owning their homes or ambitious entrepreneurs or barons of the money-making enterprises in the land.

It’s all about money, from the charges of the architects,designers engineering companies and so on, to the home buyers and investors.

So why is human life so cheap?

Every worker who falls to his death is not committing a crime he is doing an honest day’s work. If he is foreign, the money he earns may be sent home if he comes in from the territories he is doing it because of a shortage of jobs from whence he comes.

As for the blissful young families, new owners, who enter a building where a worker has fallen to his death they should be reminded of this by a plaque on the wall.

Maybe then someone will wake up.!

About the Author
Zelda Harris first came to Israel 1949, aged 18. After living through the hardships of the nascent state, she returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.