Lifeguard stations were closed in Aviv Beach, Bograshov Beach, Gordon Beach and Mezizim Beach, causing panic among beachgoers as the large waves crashed on the shores without supervision.
According to the Tel Aviv Municipality, the lifeguards were not striking as part of an official labor dispute, but rather issuing sick notes and not showing up for work.
“The municipality operates in accordance with the Regulation of Bathing Places Law of the Ministry of the Interior, and in accordance with the new collective agreement signed a year ago for the next ten years,” the municipality said in a statement.
In the agreement which was signed last year, the bathing season was extended from half a year to eight months, while the salaries of senior lifeguards in Israel were increased by NIS 3,600.
The lifeguards in Tel Aviv demanded better working benefits as the agreement was hammered out, claiming they are required to work harder than their colleagues keeping an eye out on other beaches scattered along Israel’s Mediterranean coast, and saying that Tel Aviv’s waters are swamped with significantly higher numbers of tourists.
On Thursday, the lifeguard at Bograshov Beach only arrived at his watch post at 10:30am and the municipality since said that it was not sure whether activities would be able to continue throughout the rest of the day without interruptions.
Lifeguards operated on the adjacent beaches as usual where the presence of tourists was comparably high.
Nevertheless, waves of frustration were recorded by some tourists who expressed anger over the disruptions that had ensued in their activities, particularly as the last few days have witnessed noticeably hostile waters.
“This is criminal negligence on the part of the municipality,” vented one beachgoer who came to enjoy Tel Aviv’s sandy shores and waves with his wife, only to discover the absence of lifeguards.
“The sea today is extremely dangerous. It is in the middle of August and there are children here on vacation from school and tourists who don’t know how to deal with the sea. It endangers life and I don’t understand how arrest warrants haven’t been issued or how another solutions hasn’t been found. It really is negligence,” he repeated.
Paramedics arriving at the sea attempted to save the life of the 39-year-old lifeguard who drowned but were forced to pronounce his death.