While many Israelis complained about Israel’s lack of preparedness for the intense winter storm which hit the country over the weekend, President Shimon Peres has chosen to highlight the positive.
Like many residents of Jerusalem, Peres was stranded in his home over the weekend, along with many members of his staff who were unable to go to their own homes because of the bad road conditions.
“I am a proud citizen of Jerusalem under siege,” he told Channel 10 News on Saturday evening, adding, “The whole house was like a kibbutz over the weekend. The security guards could not go home. We had mattresses, food. There were power outages, but nothing tragic. I've never watched this much television before. I saw the snow, its intensity, the trees that were uprooted.”
While many Israelis have complained about the Israel Electricity Company’s (IEC) inability to repair power outages on time and over the fact that snow ploughs did not clear the snow from the roads properly, ignoring the fact that stranded cars and fallen trees blocked access to power lines, Peres said there were also things that Israelis could be proud of.
"I know there's a lot to look into, but there is also much to be proud of," he told Channel 10. "I saw so many volunteers and dedicated people trying to help out those in distress. It made me proud. Workers from the electric company climbing power lines, the police looking for someone who may have been missed, the military, the municipality and a lot of volunteers who came to help.”
Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also praised first responders, the Israel Electric Company (IEC) and government bodies for the way they have been functioning in the heavy snow storm of the last four days. Netanyahu credited the emergency teams with saving many lives.
"Saving human lives was our first and top priority,” he stressed, at a public briefing in the emergency headquarters where rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts are being coordinated. “There was no home in Israel that we needed to reach and failed to reach.”
"The roads are gradually being reopened,” he said. “We were prepared in the way that a state needs to be prepared. Other countries are paralyzed for longer periods of time in such events.”
Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino also called for an end to the criticism of the way with which Israel dealt with the storm.
"Our main effort is to save lives, and do everything to prevent people from being hurt,” he said adding, "We’ve agreed with the IEC that everything will be done to restore power to those who are without electricity.”
"I want to thank the police for their efforts over the last 48 hours, and all police volunteers, other volunteers, and rescue organizations," said the commissioner. "We'll do whatever it takes and take advantage of the fact that the weather is improving to return Israel to its regular routine. Let's stop the whining and all work together to get things back to normal.”