For Towns, Storm Will Cost $85.7 Million

Jerusalem area hotels compensated stranded guests with meals.

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The weekend storm will cost local government at least 300 million shekels ($85.7 million), according to The Union of Local Authorities. The head of the association, Shlomo Buhbut, called on Israel’s mayors to do everything necessary to save lives and provide assistance without regard to the cost.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid decided over the weekend to set up a joint command center to deal with damage from the storm that would bring together the directors general from his own ministry and those from the ministries of the interior, social affairs, education and health along with the Union of Local Authorities. Lapid offered Buhbut and Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, whose city was particularly hard-hit due to quantities of snow and major power outages there, assistance that they need to deal with the emergency situation.

The director of the Tax Authority, Moshe Asher, announced that the deadline on tax reports and advance payments of income taxes and value added taxes and deductions for November, which would normally be due today, Sunday, are to be deferred until Thursday, December 19.

“The current period has revealed the failure of the State of Israel to be prepared,” Buhbut said. “It is unacceptable for an entire country to be paralyzed without a solution and for local authorities not to have the means necessary to assist citizens at this time. The state has an obligation to establish one main entity to deal with all the damage caused and to be prepared for the future. So, for example, regional equipment warehouses should be set up to provide the necessary equipment to [local] authorities during times of emergency.”

Jerusalem hotels cope with power outages and snow

Guests at some Jerusalem area hotels coped with power outages caused by the massive snowstorm that hit the capital. At the Cramim resort hotel on the outskirts of the city at Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim, the power went out on Thursday evening. The hotel’s management used generators to provide electricity in public areas of the property, but the guest rooms were left without heat or light and on Saturday morning guests woke up to find that there was no hot running water. The hotel provided free meals to the guests, although other hotels were not as generous.

“The guests are stranded, unable to arrive or leave and it’s very unpleasant,” acknowledged Cramim hotel manager Sylvie Cohen, whose hotel is near Route 1, the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, which was impassable due to the snow and closed to traffic. “Generators can’t run facilities like a heated swimming pool, so we had to organize other activities such as a massage station near the fireplace, and we had an evening sing-along with one of the workers, who played the piano. It’s hard to be shut up in a hotel for three days.” Later in the day on Saturday, Cohen added, people were able to leave. Unlike the Kiryat Anavim resort, where guests were truly stranded and received meals at no charge, guests at other Jerusalem area hotels were charged reduced fees for meals. At the Leonardo Plaza hotel in the center of West Jerusalem, a 20% discount was provided as compensation for the weather. The same 20% discount was provided at the Leonardo Hotel near the Old City.

At the Crowne Plaza in the capital, meals that normally cost 200 shekels ($58) were reduced to 100 shekels ($29) or 150 shekels ($43) per person, depending upon whether the guests were with a group or staying there as individuals. Full meal prices at the Dan hotels in the capital were going for 140 shekels to 180 shekels, although simpler fare such as sandwiches and salads was available for less than that.

Despite the expectation at many hotels that occupancy would increase amid the snowy onslaught, Jerusalem hotels were generally not at full occupancy. The Crowne Plaza had weekend occupancy of about 75%, whereas the weekend before it was fully booked. The hotel’s general manager, Avi Levy, said he had stopped taking reservations out of concern that he wouldn’t be able to provide food to a full complement of guests if the storm became very severe.

Vehicles are seen stranded in snow at the entrance of Jerusalem on December 13, 2013 following a snowstorm. Credit: AFP

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