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Indians see Israel jobs as ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ despite Gaza war dangers: ‘willing to take the risk’

In World
January 09, 2024

According to reports, there were about 80,000 Palestinian workers in Israel’s construction industry that came from the West Bank, and another 17,000 from the Gaza Strip. But after October 7, all lost their right to work.

Singh said he had rushed to submit his documents as soon as he heard about the opportunity, seeing it as his only way out of poverty and to send his children to school.

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“I hardly manage to feed my family. How will I take care of the education expenses of my children and build a house for them?” he asked.

Israel sent a delegation to India in November to set up the recruitment process, which was further hastened by a telephone call between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu last month.

Last week, the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana each began advertising 10,000 posts to start the hiring drive, which is being overseen by India’s National Skill Development Corporation.

Singh trusts that the Indian government has plans to keep its citizens safe. “Our government can’t send us without taking considerations for our security. No government can send their people to die in any other country,” he said.

Dinesh Sharma outside his house. Sharma, a labourer in Mahroli, India, has signed up to work in Israel. Photo: Junaid Kathju

Dinesh Sharma, 32, said he was worried about leaving his family to work in Israel, but could not pass up the opportunity.

“I am a bit hesitant. I don’t know what the situation there is. But for the sake of my family and in search of a better future, I am willing to take this risk,” he said.

Sharma, who works as a labourer in Mahroli, a village outside Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, earns up to 10,000 Indian rupees (US$120) a month. He supports his elderly parents, two sisters and a brother.

“How can one survive on such a meagre income when you have an entire family to support?” he asked.

M.L. Pal, the assistant commissioner of labour in Mathura, told This Week in Asia that authorities had received 50 applications since the advertisement was published, and they were expecting more in the coming days.

“We have been given a month to fulfil the advertised vacancies. People are turning up to register themselves, and we are hopeful to meet the target on time,” he said, adding that selected applicants would undergo a screening test. The roles on offer range from plasterers to stone crushers.

04:53

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Apart from the cost of an air ticket to Israel, which workers must pay for themselves, Pal said all other expenses would be met by the companies hiring the construction workers.

“It is an amazing opportunity for our labour class to earn a good income and show their working skills at the highest level,” he said. “Any person, irrespective of their religious identity, can apply for the job. The only criterion is that a candidate should be between the age of 21 and 45, with valid documents, and they should have a basic knowledge of English.”

According to the recruitment notice, workers will receive 125,000 rupees (US$1,500) per month with a bonus of 15,000 rupees (US$180) to be credited to them on returning to India.

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However, it is not only the labour class that is keen to travel to Israel for work. Young educated Indians are also applying for jobs in their pursuit of a decent income.

Krishna Veer Singh, a 27-year-old graduate working for a private company in Mumbai, said he had struggled to send any money home while living in one of India’s most expensive cities.

“I am earning a wage. However, staying away from home and then not being able to save money doesn’t make any sense,” said Singh, who is originally from Mathura.

Singh said after paying his rent and everyday expenses, he could barely scrimp together 14,000 rupees (US$168) per month. “Therefore, I choose to apply for the job in Israel,” he said.

03:05

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Indonesia evacuates 4 nationals from Gaza in first batch to cross border into Egypt

While many Indian workers are still willing to risk travelling to Israel for better prospects, others returned home from the country in October after conflict erupted in the region.

Since October 11, the Indian government has chartered six flights to bring back citizens stranded in the war-hit country.

According to data provided by India’s Ministry of External Affairs and its embassy in Tel Aviv, a total of 1,347 Indians were repatriated from Israel.

Ministry figures show there were about 18,000 Indian citizens in Israel, primarily carers for the elderly, diamond traders, tech professionals and students.

In Haryana, the state next door to Uttar Pradesh, almost 3,000 people have already applied for jobs in Israel through the local government’s public sector company, the Haryana Skill Employment Corporation.

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Vacancies advertised by the state include 3,000 each for carpenters and iron workers, 2,000 for floor-tile fitters and 2,000 for plasterers.

The Indian government has said in its job postings that workers would be employed in safe places within Israel.

Young people from Haryana who have applied for jobs described the government’s move as “very good” and said that they were happy to get the chance to go abroad for work.

Ajay Kumar, a resident of Haryana’s Panchkula district who has applied to be a construction worker, said he was not afraid of the conflict as he believed the Israel Defence Forces would take care of their safety.

“We are going through the government, and they will be taking care of us,” Ajay said. “It is an opportunity of a lifetime for people like us. And I am all willing to take this risk.”

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