Gas Mask Distribution Halted in Tel Aviv to Allow Camera Crew to Film Reality Show

Hundreds, including elderly people, pregnant women and children, are locked out of distribution center; 'It was unreal,' says waiting woman.

Police and postal service officials temporarily halted the distribution of gas masks in Tel Aviv on Monday, locking out hundreds of people lined up outside, to allow a camera crew to film a scene in a reality show in which the star refuses to wait in line for her gas mask.

“It was unreal,” said Sigal Atakchi from Tel Aviv, who waited two and a half hours to receive her gas mask. “They just came in for 20 minutes and filmed a reality show. Pregnant women sat there for hours in the heat; elderly people were simply in shock over what happened.”

Atakchi was one of hundreds of people, including elderly people, pregnant women and children, who came to the Rozin Community Center at 2 Dresner St. in Tel Aviv to pick up their gas masks on Monday. Since there are very few distribution centers nationwide, many came to the Ramat Aviv neighborhood from other cities, often by bus or taxi, giving up a day of work to stand in the sun for two or three hours before they were even allowed to enter the building.

The film crew arrived around 1 P.M., accompanied by a blonde, elegantly dressed woman in sunglasses who will apparently be its star. They barged straight into the room where the gas masks were being handed out, without the policeman stationed at the door making any attempt to stop them.

Just a few minutes earlier, the same police officer had refused to let Dalia Ben-Shoshan, a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy, enter the air-conditioned hall for a break from the heat outside, saying only parents with strollers were allowed to jump the line.

Ben-Shoshan, who said she waited several hours for her mask, said the incident was “Israeli chutzpah.”

“That’s how it goes here,” she said. “They can thumb their noses at us all.”

Once the camera crew entered, the police officer locked the door of the community center to prevent the hundreds of people waiting outside from entering as well. The door stayed locked for 20 minutes while the cameras rolled.

During that time, some of the postal clerks who had been handing out gas masks until then abandoned their posts to help the film crew set up the scene. Only when people outside began screaming did the clerks resume handing out masks at one window. The other window remained closed so the camera crew could film there.

At no point did the film crew apologize to the crowd, nor did any of the clerks. When the police officer was asked why the crew was allowed to jump the line, he replied that he wasn’t required to answer the question and threatened to arrest the questioner.

The commander of the north Tel Aviv police station, Chief Superintendent Haim Zargarov, initially made light of the issue when questioned. But once he realized people at the distribution center were furious, he dispatched another officer, who soon restored order.

Police said the camera crew had permission to film at the distribution center, but the national postal service, which is responsible for handing out the gas masks, said that was not the case.

The postal service apologized for the incident. It said it would investigate what took place and promised to prevent a recurrence.