Israeli Minister Plugs Housing Contractor Under Investigation for Worker's Death

Six people have died this year at construction sites run by Rami Shbiro's company and its subsidiary, but the finance minister provided it free publicity on social media

A construction site overseen by contractor Rami Shbiro where a construction worker was killed in a work accident in Galil Yam, September 9, 2019.
Ofer Vaknin

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon provided free publicity this week to a project by a contractor suspected of negligent homicide for a worker’s death at one of his construction sites.

Kahlon tweeted a video, which he captioned “When a song becomes reality,” showing new apartments in Galil Yam, near Herzliya. The video was made by a beneficiary of Kahlon’s Mechir Lemishtaken program, which provides apartments for sale at below-market prices for eligible Israelis who enter a lottery.

But the contractor who built the Galil Yam apartments, Rami Shbiro, was arrested on September 5, a day after a Chinese worker fell to his death there from a nine-story height, on suspicion of involvement in safety violations linked to the fatality. He was released two days later, but remains under investigation.

Shbiro blamed the worker for his death, saying the man decided of his own accord to arrive at the site before hours and then work unsupervised. But during Shbiro’s bail hearing, a state attorney said the accident occurred because of “an organizational culture of contempt for and failure to obey safety regulations.”

Since the start of 2018, 11 accidents have occurred at Shbiro’s construction sites. Moreover, six people have died so far this year at sites run by Shbiro’s company or its subsidiary, Neot Shamir.

Kahlon said safety at construction sites matters greatly to him, and he has allocated additional funding for this at the request of the Labor Ministry, “which is responsible for this field.” He added that ministry staffers “will continue to be full partners in reducing safety problems at construction sites.”

In another fatal construction incident, police arrested four people suspected of negligent homicide in the death of a worker who was helping to build a sewage system in southern Israel.

Ali Darawshe, 21, of Iksal, was the 35th construction worker to die on the job since the start of the year. Darawshe died on Tuesday when one of the walls of the site where his crew was digging near Ashkelon collapsed on top of him. He was pronounced dead on the spot by Magen David Adom medics.

Another worker was seriously injured in the accident near the town of Be’er Ganim.

Police were investigating the incident alongside a Labor Ministry investigator. On Tuesday, they arrested four people – the site’s work manager, the work supervisor, Darawshe’s boss and another worker at the site. A court ordered all four released to house arrest by 7 P.M. on Wednesday, but police were considering appealing that decision.