Israeli diplomatic institutions abroad are all but shut down, after the union representing consular workers declared a strike at the beginning of the week. No visas or other consular services are being provided at Israeli embassies or consulates anywhere in the world – and Israelis who get into trouble are to be advised to get help at the nearest Chabad House, a memo sent out by the Ministry to diplomatic staff still on the job said.
The strike is the result of a long-simmering dispute between many Foreign Ministry employees and the government. The workers' contract expired months ago, and union officials say that the majority of staff at Israeli institutions abroad are not earning enough money to pay their bills. The decision came following a breakdown in talks shortly after they began between union representatives and the Finance Ministry.
Under the slowdown, the workers’ committee instructed its union members beginning Sunday not to issue visas to tourists, foreign workers, clerics, United Nations personnel and diplomats.
In addition, Israelis traveling abroad will be unable to avail themselves of consular services, except in the case of “major emergencies,” which need to be approved by a union panel.
For those Israelis abroad who do need help, the Ministry had some advice: Find your nearest Habad House. A Ministry spokesperson told Army Radio Sunday that the Ministry was issuing instructions to embassies worldwide to encourage Israeli travelers abroad to seek help at Chabad houses if the need arose.
Speaking to Army Radio, Rabbi Mordechai Levenhartz, head of the Habad House in Kiev, Ukraine, said that the organization was happy to help out any Jew who needed assistance. “We can't issue visas, unfortunately, but we can provide traveles with a nice, warm meal, a comfortable place to rest, and other assistance,” he said.