Israel’s national lore tends to prefer the image of an economic miracle, where Jewish spunk and pluck made the desert bloom and gave rise to an unbeatable hi-tech industry. The reality, however, reveals a far different picture.
A tiny exclusive Tel Aviv chef restaurant posted a warm message of support on Facebook for its beloved Eritrean cook, who is on strike this week. Another trendy Tel Aviv eatery posted a sign asking its customers to understand why it is serving food on disposable plates. According to Israel’s state-run Channel 1 news, on the third day of strikes and protests by African migrantsת who make up much of the back-kitchen restaurant staff and other unpopular jobs, the Israel Farmer’s Federation and employers in the cleaning, food and hotel industries appealed to Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar to give the migrants supervised work permits rather than expulsion orders. The employers argued that this would prevent a wave of business shutdowns, as nearly the entire African migrant community is participating in the strikes which are slated to continue indefinitely.
This week’s protests of tens of thousands of migrants who have entered the country illegally from Egypt, often through smugglers, raises a host of human rights and humanitarian issues. But it also exposes a dark side of the Israeli economy. For all its boasting about the start-up nation with a hi-tech sector powerful enough to bulldoze through a global economic crisis, the gaps among the country’s richest and poorest citizens have been well-documented. Less documented is the plight of those who reside below the lowest rung of the ladder: the migrants – referred to almost exclusively as “infiltrators” in the Israeli press and official documents. They do the dirtiest work, in the worst conditions and with the fewest...Read More