Israel is facing a severe shortage of workers in the construction and nursing sectors, as the ongoing war with Hamas has disrupted the supply of Palestinian laborers. Israel suspended work permits for thousands of Palestinians after the October 7 attack by Hamas, which killed hundreds of Israelis and sparked the war. Since then, Israel has been looking for alternative sources of workers to fill the gap.
In May 2023, Israel signed a deal with India that will allow 42,000 Indians to work in Israel, especially in the construction sector, besides nursing. The deal was hailed as a win-win situation for both countries, as Israel would benefit from the cheap and skilled labor of Indians, while India would gain from the remittances and employment opportunities for its citizens.
The Recruitment Drive in India
The week-long recruitment drive began on Tuesday, January 23, 2024, with an Israeli company expecting to fill over 5,000 positions for masons, carpenters, and other construction workers in Israel. The drive was held in Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, where thousands of Indians flocked to the recruitment center for jobs that would take them to Israel.
Many among the crowd of men, mostly skilled construction workers and laborers, said they would take their chances in a country embroiled in war as they are struggling to find jobs in India, where unemployment remains high despite a swelling economy. Anoop Singh, a college graduate and construction worker, was told he would make about $1,600 a month if he was selected to go to Israel — significantly more than the $360 to $420 he could get as a monthly wage for the same work in India. “That’s why I have applied to go to Israel,” he said as he waited at the center for his job interview.
The Risks and Rewards of Working in Israel
The applicants were aware of the risks involved in working in Israel, which has been under constant rocket fire from Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza since the war began. The Israeli company assured them that they would be provided with protective gear and shelter in case of an attack, and that they would be covered by insurance and medical care. The company also said that they would be working in areas that are relatively safe and far from the border with Gaza.
The applicants were also hopeful of the rewards of working in Israel, which include not only the higher wages, but also the exposure to a different culture and the possibility of learning new skills. Some of them said they were attracted by the reputation of Israel as a high-tech and innovative country, and that they hoped to gain some experience and knowledge that would help them in their future careers. Others said they were motivated by the religious and historical significance of Israel, and that they wanted to see the holy sites and landmarks of the Jewish state.
The Future of India-Israel Relations
The influx of Indian workers to Israel is expected to boost the bilateral relations between the two countries, which have been growing steadily in recent years. India and Israel have cooperated in various fields, such as defense, agriculture, water, and innovation, and have supported each other in international forums. India has also condemned the Hamas attacks on Israel and expressed solidarity with the Israeli people.
The Indian workers in Israel are likely to serve as a bridge between the two nations, fostering mutual understanding and friendship. They are also likely to contribute to the economic and social development of both countries, as they will send remittances to their families in India and participate in the Israeli society. The Indian workers in Israel are a testament to the strong and resilient ties between the two countries, which have overcome the challenges of distance, diversity, and war.