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Tel Aviv service offers cleaners priced by ethnic origin

Cleaning services are being promoted to potential clients in north Tel Aviv with a flyer that prices its cleaners according to their ethnic origin. The advert also refers to its employees in the feminine only.

A flyer distributed in north Tel Aviv that offers cleaning services according to the ethnic origin of the (female only) cleaner. (Photo: Courtesy)

A flyer distributed in north Tel Aviv that offers cleaning services according to the ethnic origin of the (female only) cleaner.

A service provider offering cleaning and housekeeping in north Tel Aviv has taken the term “human resources” to a whole new level, distributing a flyer that prices its cleaners according to their ethnic origin.

The advert, which was distributed in one of Tel Aviv’s most affluent areas, was first posted on Facebook by political blogger Tal Schneider, who was given the flyer by an acquaintance.

Starting out with a corny infomercial-style list of questions, the ad asks: Do you need a housekeeper? Are you tired of hiring illegal foreign workers and getting fined? Not prepared to have an Arab cleaner for security reasons? Are you tired of employing according to the law and being sued by temporary workers?

The flyer then presents the “solution” to all these unpleasant and onerous problems, by offering “legal only” housekeepers and cleaners, with hourly rates scaled according to the cleaner’s ethnicity.

The cheapest labor comes from employees from African countries, at NIS 49 per hour. Slightly more expensive are Eastern European workers, at NIS 52 an hour. By far the most expensive are Eastern European employees who hold Israeli citizenship, at NIS 69 per hour.

The flyer also refers to the cleaners in question exclusively in the feminine (Hebrew is a gendered language), which in conjunction with the illustrative photo of a serene (and white) woman cleaning a window, adds a healthy wallop of sexism into the mix.

The immediate assumption of many that this is satire designed to highlight the very open and profound racism that runs through Israeli society was unfortunately dispelled, according to national news outlet Mako [Heb], which said it managed to contact an employee of the company to confirm that the ad was indeed real. The employee also reportedly claimed that paying employees different salaries according to their ethnicity is not illegal.

Each time such a brazen and shameful display of casual racism pops up in this country, the immediate response is to compare it to how it would look if another country did the same thing: to imagine, for example, the uproar that would be caused if an American company priced its (female-only) cleaning services according to whether the cleaners were from southeast Asia, say, or African-American.

It’s a valid and tempting comparison to make. But it’s also sad, because it demonstrates just how deep-seated the prejudice is in Israel: people have to be shown other examples of horrendous discrimination in order to understand just how unnatural this state of affairs is. And anyone who may want to console themselves with the idea that this kind of precision racism is not a perfectly normal part of the discourse here need only look back to another mini-incident from a few months back.

Last October, in response to a wave of stabbing and other terror attacks, the council of Tel Aviv suburb Givatayim started looking into the possibility of replacing all their schools’ Palestinian janitorial staff with Eritreans [Heb]. What stood in their way? A previous law passed by the Israeli government that barred the employment of African asylum seekers in the central Israel region.

Underneath all of this, of course, is the unspoken understanding that this kind of manual work is only to be assigned to non-Jews (thus, for example, a fairly prominent lawyer once blithely remarked to me that “Jews are too smart” for this kind of labor).

One more thing: the last carrot the flyer dangles in front of its prospective clients is a special price for a “full day” of 12 hours of work. Human resources, indeed.

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    1. Carmen

      israelis need to get off their entitled, well cushioned behinds and clean up their own damn mess and they better start now. This life of privilege they lead is going to end soon and when it does you’d better know how to clean your oven and wash your funky selves. The hypocrisy is astounding but israelis have to be the most bigoted people in the world. They’ll lock up Africans in Holot, feed them shit, call them a ‘cancer’ and ‘infiltrators’ but they’ll clean your house and you’ll get ’em at a discount! Happy days in apartheid land!

      Reply to Comment
    2. ailaG

      You missed out on more racism – racism against Arabs. One may assume that an Arab worker won’t hide bombs in your house…
      In days like these, when hatred is the “cool” things and Arab life doesn’t matter for a mob way too large, I find that line about not taking an Arab worker for security reasons extremely racist and dangerous.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Isaac Seigel

      Herzl’s notion was to create a Jewish Germany on the Mediterranean. The dream missed the mark, and we got a Jewish Hungary. If the movement keeps going south eastward, it will become a Jewish Saudi Arabia.

      It would be better to just move the whole country to Los Angeles.

      Reply to Comment
    4. carmen

      Yehudit – you’re a liar. Jews won’t pay for Palestinian labor unless it’s rock bottom and you know it. It isn’t the Palestinians creating this market its the israeli Jews. Who in their right mind would work for less than minimum wage unless they’ve been given no other choice? Typical for zionists to create these miserable scenarios and then blame it on the people they created them for. And then you complain because a Jewish friend can’t get a job? Unbelievable – you and your fellow zionists have no shame before the rest of humanity. You should be ashamed of yourself for writing such lies. Karma’s a bitch. You ready for it?

      Micah 6:8 “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”.

      Reply to Comment
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Illustrations: Eran Mendel