Gaza workers hope for a better life after obtaining work permits in Israel

Gaza workers hope for a better life after obtaining work permits in Israel
4 min read
24 March, 2022
Between 150-200 workers are expected to receive permits to work inside Israel every week, based on the response of the Israeli authorities to their previously submitted requests.
Between 150-200 workers are expected to receive their permits to work inside Israel per week, based on the response of the Israeli authorities to their previously submitted requests.[Getty]

The Hamas-run Ministry of Labor in Gaza has recently received 170 permits allowing workers from Gaza to be employed inside Israel after obtaining security clearance from the Israeli authorities, an official said on Wednesday. 

"We have obtained 170 permits out of 2,000 applications that were submitted in the past few weeks to the Israeli side through the civil affairs led by the Palestinian Authority," Abdullah al-Jamal, an official in the ministry, told The New Arab.

The official added that the workers be designated the status of "people with economic needs" instead of "workers" and will not be able to claim "benefits as workers, such as health insurance or end-of-service fees."

"Between 150-200 workers are expected to receive their permits to work inside Israel per week, based on the response of the Israeli authorities to their previously submitted requests," al-Jamal further elaborated.

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After a ban spanning years, Israel recently allowed Gazan workers to apply for work inside its cities this past October.

News that the permits were once again being issued drew thousands of Palestinians to the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce in Gaza to apply.

Most of the workers from Gaza usually are employed in the sectors of agriculture, construction and tourism and receive wages that range between $US 70 to $250 per day, depending on their skills and time, five times the income a worker is able to receive in Gaza.

Mohammed Kamal expressed his happiness at obtaining a work permit in Israel after many months of waiting.

A 38-year-old father of four, currently studying for a master's degree at a university in the Gaza Strip, Kamal says that he plans to stop his education in order to start working.

"I graduated from university in 2008, but I was unable to work in my field, and I was forced to work as an accountant in a local factory. After years of trying, I managed to get a master's scholarship to complete my education, but now I have to stop that because I would rather work and earn money for my children and family," he said.

According to Kamal, he plans to work as an assistant to one of his relatives in construction in the city of Rahat in northern Israel. "I will be able to earn about $120 a day, while I cannot even earn $US 250 a month in Gaza," he says.

"Due to the difficult political and economic conditions, the people of the Gaza Strip suffer greatly from poverty and are unable to build a future for their children like their parents," the young man added.

Since 2007, Israel has imposed an illegal and suffocating land, sea and air blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas democratic won the legislative elections and took power from its rival faction Fatah.

Since the blockade, the economic situation in the enclave has deteriorated catastrophically, with unemployment rates surpassing more than 67 per cent, according to a report issued by the Central Statistics Authority.

Saleh Abu Naim, 54, another worker from the southern Gaza Strip, also obtained a permit to work in Israel after several failed attempts.

"I have worked in Israel for more than 20 years and I used to live a stable life, but after I lost my job, my life turned upside down," the father of five recalled.

"Today, I am diabetic and I must work to provide a better life for my family, which experienced extreme poverty for more than 15 years," Abu Naim said, adding that he plans to return to work in agriculture in Jaffa. 

"Life is very difficult in Gaza, and we are forced to work in Israel despite everything they did to us. We have no choice but to struggle to survive and protect our children from dying from starvation."

Since Israel allowed Palestinian workers from Gaza to enter its cities, hundreds have gathered at the Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip every day to wait for the big buses to take them to Israel.

"I have missed this scene for many years. I used to transport workers to Erez daily and return others in the evening," Mohammed al-Shafei, a taxi driver from Gaza, told The New Arab.

"I earn about 50 dollars a day, half of which I take from the workers in return for their transportation to the Erez Crossing. The benefit extends to everyone, not just the workers,"  said the father of seven.