‘1,000 Israeli women want to work in agriculture’

<p>Next week we may go shopping at the supermarket, the town markets or the corner store, and find ourselves standing before empty shelves: farmers' organizations including the Israel Farmers Federation, the Growers' Union and the Poultry Farmers' Association are threatening to strike, cutting off all supplies for three days.</p>

In contrary to the striking farmers’ claims, Israeli women want to work in agriculture

Next week we may go shopping at the supermarket, the town markets or the corner store, and find ourselves standing before empty shelves: farmers’ organizations including the Israel Farmers Federation, the Growers’ Union and the Poultry Farmers’ Association are threatening to strike, cutting off all supplies for three days.

Why? Because the government has reduced the number of migrant laborers (“foreign workers”) it is allowing into Israel to 22,000, and the agriculturalists claim it was supposed to be reduced to just 26,000. They are demanding the other 4,000: without these workers, they say, there will be no agriculture.

Representatives of the organizations say Israeli workers have become so spoiled they are unwilling to work in agriculture at all, no matter what the wages. Some farmers say there are Israelis willing to work, but they demand five-figure wages, and agriculturalists can’t afford to pay such wages.

However, these claims have no basis in reality. The Workers Advice Center (WAC-MAAN) says it has a list of some 1,000 women from the Arab sector who all want to work in agriculture – and are all willing to work for the minimum wage, just NIS 20.7 ($5.7) per hour.

About 250 of these women work in agriculture today. The organization says Kibbutz Beit Oren has been employing dozens of Arab-Israeli women for some two years in its banana plantations; the flower growers of Moshav Olesh has been employing some for about five years; and a persimmon grower in the Hefer Valley region employs another 50. The rest of the women, WAC says, have not found employment because farmers are not interested in hiring them.

End of season? Go home

Sania Ka’adan from Baqa al-Gharbiyeh worked in agriculture in various communities in the Sharon region for five years. “Each time I worked in a different farm,” she says. “Sometimes three months in one place, sometimes just one month. Each time, the farmer would tell me to go home at the end of the season, so I went to WAC and they found me something else. It’s hard work, but we need the money. We have four children.”

How much money did you earn?

“Minimum wage.”

Why did you stop working?

“I don’t know. The farmer in the last place I worked said he didn’t need me anymore because the season had ended, and since then they haven’t found me anything. I think they don’t want me because I have to go home in the afternoon. I used to work each day from five in the morning until two in the afternoon. I sorted out help for the children in the morning, but not for the afternoon. In the places I worked, they didn’t want me to work overtime, but perhaps other places want this, I don’t know.”

Do you know who works instead of you in the places you worked?

“I don’t know. In the last place, they didn’t bring new workers, they just kept on the Thai workers who worked there with us.”

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