Photo Credit: Eitan Elhadez-Barak/TPS
Farmers working in the fields of Moshav Nehalim in central Israel on Dec. 27, 2020.

Despite the war in Gaza, some 12,000 foreign workers have returned to Israel, an Interior Ministry official told Knesset lawmakers on Tuesday.

Inbal Mashash, the director of the Population and Immigration Authority’s Foreign Workers Administration, testified to the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers that the 12,000 is made up of new laborers as well as workers who had returned to their homelands after Hamas’s October 7 massacres in southern Israel.


Mashash said that the first 100 of an eventual 10,000 workers had arrived from Sri Lanka and that Israeli officials are in talks with other countries to attract more laborers, primarily in construction and agriculture. Among the countries Israel has reached out to are India, Kenya, Moldova, Ecuador and Malawi.

Before the war, the majority of the foreign laborers working in agriculture were from Thailand. But 10,000 working on farms near Gaza and the Lebanese border went home. Others working in safer areas such as the Jordan Valley and central Israel also opted to return to Thailand after 39 Thai workers were killed and 32 taken hostage by Hamas.

Israeli agriculture is facing staggering losses in production and manpower. Before October 7, Israel had 29,900 foreigners, mostly Thais, working in farms, orchards, greenhouses and packing plants. Nearly all have returned to Thailand.

Farmers also employed 10,000-20,000 PA Arabs depending on the season, but they are currently denied entry into Israel. Arab workers from Gaza previously allowed in aided and spied for Hamas, providing Hamas with information, maps, and even detailed information about the individual families in the Gaza border communities.

There are senior officers within the IDF who are pushing to have the PA Arabs from Judea and Samaria let back in to Jewish communities to work, thinking that will buy quiet.

Israeli workers who might have filled the gaps have been called up for military reserve duty.


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