The southern Israeli city of Eilat launched a citywide strike at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, closing down most shopping centers, public transportation, schools, municipal operations, and even some hospital services in protest of the planned closure of an airport in Tel Aviv.
Along with the strike, which will cover most unionized workers, the city also shut barred entry and exit – not only to the neighboring countries of Egypt and Jordan, but also to the rest of Israel, starting at 10:00 a.m.
Even departure or entry by road has been closed, with routes 90 and 12 shutdown from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
The four-hour closure, launched as a ‘state of emergency’ by the mayor of Eilat, included a physical blockade on roads leading into and out of Eilat, with municipal vehicles used to block traffic.
The closure and citywide strikes culminated in a demonstration, beginning at 11:30 a.m, at the entrance to the Eilat airport, which is slated to be closed.
Eilat’s mayor, Meir Yitzhak Halevi, called for the strike last month, in protest of the planned closure of the Sde Dov airport in Tel Aviv.
Sde Dov, a smaller alternate airport about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) northwest of the larger Ben Gurion International Airport, is used for many local Israeli flights, linking Tel Aviv to Eilat.
The Knesset voted in 2015 to close Sde Dov, freeing up valuable real estate in the densely-populated center of the country. In 2017, however, the airport’s closure was pushed off for two years, until July 2019.
At the same time, Eilat’s Uvda airport is expected to cease operations next Monday, with air traffic shifted north, outside of the city, to the new Ramon airport.
Locals worry that with the closure of both the Sde Dov and Uvda airports, Eilat will become isolated from the rest of the country, given the longer travel times to and from Eilat from Ramon airport, and to and from Tel Aviv via Ben Gurion airport.