Locals Coping With Stress As War Triggers An Exodus Of Foreign Labourers From Israel
On October 7, Hamas militants streamed into kibbutz Alumim, setting off on a rampage of killing and destruction. But most of their victims weren’t Israeli, they were Thai and Nepali farm workers. Security staff watched helplessly on CCTV as the 23 men were massacred.
Thais make up the largest group of foreign nationals among the more than 1,200 victims of the Hamas attack. Most were labourers on agricultural sites close to the perimeter fence separating the warring parties. Hamas freed 10 Thais taken hostage to Gaza on Friday but others remain.
In Israel, Significance Of Agriculture Is More Than Economic
Raging on for weeks, the brutal conflict has pushed almost the entirety of the Middle East into utter chaos. The violence has triggered an exodus of foreign workers from Israel, with some 10,000 farmworkers estimated to have left since October 7, according to the Israeli government.
In Israel, the significance of agriculture is more than economic. “Agriculture and farming are an inseparable part of Zionism. Working the land is an important value among the people of Israel,” said Lior Simcha, chief executive of the Milk Producers Association.
However, citizens started taking higher-paying jobs in different sectors as the economy developed, leaving agricultural jobs unfilled. As the latest violence rages on, without hands to work on the farms, crops and animals would have been left to die.
Volunteers from across Israel have stepped in, but the much-needed foreign labourers are still yet to return – and farmers fear the future of Israeli farming near the besieged Gaza Strip could be impossible without guarantees of security.
Israeli Agricultural Sector’s Heavy Reliance On Thai Labourers
Israeli farms used to rely on Palestinian workers. But following the First Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, and the ensuing Israeli crackdown on the freedom of Palestinians to work outside the occupied territories, Israel started to search for help from other regions.
Israel’s Ministry of Interior said the farms around Gaza employed roughly 6,000 Thais before the conflict broke out. As many between 30,000 to 40,000 workers are now missing from the country’s farms, CNN quoted the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture as saying.