Wednesday, November 27

Israel and the Foreign Workers

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apa...
“For use by white persons” – sign from the apartheid era Español: “Sólo para blancos” – letrero de la era del apartheid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Jewish Law of Return passport stamp
Jewish Law of Return passport stamp (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a healthy development for people to integrate in their adopted countries. Many foreign workers arrived in Israel as refugees, or because of economic reasons in their countries of origin. Both groups seek a better life for their families. It is a natural phenomenon for people to leave their land of birth for other countries. 

They seek a livelihood and a better quality of life in another country. Naturally every group has its "rotten apples". Israel has received its fair share of "rotten apples" in every group that arrived, including many Jewish immigrants - yes - I mean it - Jewish immigrants! They are not the "Chosen People". Such a concept does not really exist except in the mind of racist, rabbinical bigots of which there is no shortage in Israel. Their influence on the Ministry of the Interior is great. The various "who is a Jew?" issues are still alive and kicking, even though it is dormant now. If your Jewishness is in question and you decide to come to live here, it is a hellish experience under the tentacles of the Ministry of the Interior and it’s "Holy Rabbinical Establishment Allies (HREA)” I think we should change the abbreviation from HREA to UREA, the U standing for “Ugly”! This does not mean that one must generalize or demonize any group that arrives here for whatever reason, irrespective of race, color or religion. If the Israeli Authorities accept them, it is irrelevant whether they are refugees or foreign workers. They must be given every opportunity to work and their offspring given the right to a decent education.

I think of Filipino caregivers who look after our aged and are devoted to them. At the end of the day, they are deported if they stay beyond 5 years and do not manage to find another job when their employer passes away - a true cruel "swinging-door policy created by the Interior Ministry, who view the Foreign Worker as a threat to Jewish identity and a move towards assimilation in the Jewish State. Why can we not be more accommodating and not be paranoiac over the danger of assimilation if there is any danger at all. The danger is in the mind of religious rabbinical bigots of the ruling Orthodox persuasion who creates division amongst Israel's citizens. After all, assimilation is healthy for the gene pool. Let us stop thinking in "national socialist terms" of racial purity.We,as Jews, have been down that road not so long ago. Many of us had close family murdered in the Nazi holocaust because they were Jews and a threat to the "herrenvolk" of Germany.

If Israel views itself as a democracy, and expects the world to see them as such, it must cease to hound foreigners by using the notorious Immigration Police that instills fear into these people by demanding them to show them their permits on demand to be in Israel. There are many informers (“stinkers” or “shtinkerim” in Hebrew) working for the Immiigration Police that ferret out foreign workers whose permits have expired.

This reminds me of apartheid South Africa, where I was born and educated. In those dark days, Black People had to have passes (the “dompas”) to work in white areas of South Africa. I remember as a teenager visiting Johannesburg and hearing an ear-splitting siren at 9.00 pm every evening. I asked my host what was the reason for the siren. I was told that after 9.00 pm the Blacks must disappear off the streets of the White areas or be arrested and if they did have a pass with their employers address, the employer would come to the police station to bail them out from the over night prison cells.

Many foreign workers in Israel have jobs that Israelis refuse to do. The caregivers, most of whom are Filipinos, care for our aged for many years until they pass away. They are on duty 24 hours a day and bear a great responsibility for their well-being as many are unable to help or feed themselves. The devotion of the caregiver is absolute in most cases. They never complain and are amazing. They perform jobs such as changing diapers of the aged that are incontinent, bathing them and doing so with love and care.

When the aged people under their care pass away, they have a problem. Apart from mourning the person they loved, they face deportation.  This can occur after a month. Is this the rewards these people, who have sacrificed their personal freedom for those under their care, deserve?

Care-givers do deserve more freedom to go out to visit their friends and get refreshed. Many work all day every day without even a day off or even being aloud the company of friends where they are living. Of course, everybody needs friends in his environment especially when off-duty. This hardly occurs in the case of the Filipino care-giver. There does seem to be a lack of sensitivity of the guardian of the aged towards this vital issue. The result is a form of indentured labor without freedom.

Many care-givers “burn out” because of stress. Some guardians or members of family install cameras in the homes of the aged and there are cases of violence against the aged under the care-giver. They take out their frustrations because of their situation of stress under their rigorous 24 hour schedule. Situations like this could be avoided if the employers of care-givers show more sensitivity to their needs. Unfortunately many care-givers are exploited by family of the aged under the care-givers care. They often use these care-givers to do housework. This is not in their contract.

What has happened to Israel? Instead of welcoming the stranger into their midst they are great at public exercises to show how great they are. They gave aid to the Philippines to areas stricken by the typhoon Orlanda. However, in Israel the foreigners are exploited and fear deportation. The Law of Return is applicable to Jews only. Why can we not be like other countries? Nobody says that Israel must take in everybody. No country on earth takes in potential immigrant indiscriminately. Foreigners, who are suffering in their home countries, and whose lives are endangered, are offered asylum in Israel. Many of these people are forbidden to work. They turn to crime. South Tel Aviv is an example of the severe problem created and the Israeli Authorities must share the blame.

Care-givers deserve better and they should have committees that attend to their rights in a more serious way than at present. The exploitation of these good and devoted people is a severe problem that has been overlooked by the government. Is this because they are not considered the “Chosen People”?

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