Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Foriegn Workers in Israel

Today’s Haaretz editorial has commented on yet another example of our beloved state failing to live up to it’s mantle of “or lagoyim.”
The government approved a scandalous bill yesterday - submitted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon -to import 3,000 foreign laborers to work in agriculture. They would join the 26,000 foreign workers already employed by the Israeli agriculture industry. The bill runs contrary to previous government decisions to gradually reduce the annual quotas for foreign workers in agriculture, construction and industry.
It seems as though the real ‘or lagoyim’ is Australia (for a change).
The deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, Prof. Zvi Eckstein, is in the process of formulating a comprehensive plan to drastically reduce the number of foreign workers in Israel. Eckstein, an economist and expert in labor market policy, relies on a model adopted by Australia and intended to curb the entry of millions of foreign workers from other countries in the region. Instead of bringing in a foreign and cheap labor force, Australia introduced agricultural mechanization. Eckstein thinks there is no reason for the Israeli government not to adopt a similar policy and subsidize farmers who bring mechanization into their fields and hothouses. Given the small number of landowners who make a living from agriculture, this is not an impossible task.

Yet the Israelis prefer to hire the foreign workers. Why? What happened to A.D Gordon’s vision? Already in 1920 he wrote “The Jewish people has been completely cut off from nature and imprisoned within city walls for two thousand years. We have been accustomed to every form of life, except a life of labor- of labor done at our behalf and for its own sake. It will require the greatest effort of will for such a people to become normal again. We lack the principal ingredient for national life. We lack the habit of labor… for it is labor which binds a people to its soil and to its national culture, which in its turn is an outgrowth of the people's toil and the people's labor. ...

I find this quote so poignant. By not labouring on our land, we are weakening the connection (and perhaps our rights of ownership) to Eretz Yisrael.

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