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While the furor at the Israel Airports Authority boils over, Ben-Gurion International Airport - the country's most important aviation hub - may be closed down today, if the residents of Bnei Atarot are not appeased.

The people of Bnei Atarot must be immediately moved to hotels, growled the Environment Ministry in a letter fired off yesterday to the Airports Authority. The people will stay at hotels while their homes are reinforced to protect their eardrums from the noise of jets taking off and landing right over their heads.

Yesterday, while calling for the ouster of director-general Gabi Ophir, the Airports Authority board of directors resolved to move the Bnei Atarotians who wish it to hotels for the interim.

"Fourteen days ago, the Environment Ministry demanded that the Airports Authority offer to evacuate to hotels people of Bnei Atarot whose homes are exposed to noise beyond 95 decibels," writes Stelian Gelberg, commissioner of radiation and audio noise at the Environment Ministry, in a letter to the Airports Authority.

Gelberg added that Airports Authority's alternative to relocation did not manage to reduce the noise nuisance to reasonable levels.

The residents of Bnei Atarot had sued the Airports Authority over the noise of the jets, and demanded that the authority sound proof their homes against it. Extra noise had resulted when the Airports Authority closed down the main runway at Ben-Gurion for repairs, forcing planes to use a runway that passes close to the moshav homes.

Gelberg argued in his letter to the authority that Ben-Gurion has been consistently violating audio nuisance laws dating from 1961. The people of Bnei Atarot have no way to escape the nuisance, which is harmful to their health and disturbs their sleep, Gelberg wrote.

He is "well aware," Gelberg wrote that to serve the great number of Israelis and tourists flying from Ben-Gurion, it has to use the runway by Bnei Atarot for takeoffs.

"But there is no justification for this crucial service to be granted to tens of thousands of travelers at the expense of suffering by 40 families," said Gelberg. You can't return the hours of sleep they've lost, he pointed out.