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Foreign Workers in Israel

Global Perspectives

Israel Drori

Publication Year: 2009

Explores how the entry of migrant workers into Israel raises questions beyond just those of the labor market. Explores how the entry of migrant workers into Israel raises questions beyond just those of the labor market. In this account of a social experiment gone awry, Israel Drori exposes a little-known and recent phenomenon: the importation of foreign workers from Third World economies to Israel. Focusing on Romanian, Thai, and Filipina migrants brought to Israel for specified periods of employment, Drori examines the effect of migrants on Israeli society, particularly the issue of national identity. What began as a political corrective—avoiding the danger of hiring Palestinians to do work that Jewish Israelis would not—has developed into a social and economic problem the state does not know how to handle. In addition to examining the work experiences and social lives of these workers, Drori also situates the Israeli case within a global context, where many affluent nations have significant populations of marginalized, undocumented workers. Israel Drori is Professor at the School of Business Administration, College of Management, Israel, and also teaches at the Department of Public Policy at Tel Aviv University. He is the author of The Seam Line: Arab Workers and Jewish Managers in the Israeli Textile Industry and coauthor (with Izhak Schnell and Michael Sofer) of Arab Industrialization in Israel: Ethnic Entrepreneurship in the Periphery.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Israeli Studies

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vii

Figures and Tables

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

This book addresses labor immigration in Israel and its dialectic relations with state policies informed by Jewish Zionist national ideologies. The immigrant workers’ life circumstances in Israel, as “Aliens in a Homeland,” form a core paradox in Israel’s identity, as a state that was established as a refuge ground for millions of Jews.When it comes to its “others,” “the Gentiles,” one...

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ONE Introduction

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pp. 1-14

International labor migration is one of the distinctive characteristics of globalization. The blessings of globalization are disseminating an advanced infrastructure, technological modernization, and patterns of consumption, together with social ideas and standards, also accompanied by economic gaps and income disparities created between the global north and the global...

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TWO Labor Migration in Israel: Theoretical Context

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pp. 15-43

This chapter addresses the ensuing debate over labor migration in Israel, first expressed in definitions of “legal” and “illegal” migration and later transformed into an issue of citizenship and national identity. My fundamental argument can be stated as follows: The policies and practices regarding foreign workers in Israel do not necessarily reflect any desired economic or social reality...

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THREE The Evolution of Government Policies and the Migrant Labor Employment System

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pp. 45-68

“The flow of labor migration,” writes Douglas Massey, has created a “postmodern paradox,” stemming from the nature of globalization: “While the global economy unleashes powerful forces that produce larger and more diverse flows of migrants from developing to developed countries, it simultaneously creates conditions within developed countries that promote...

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FOUR Employment Practices: The System of Placement Agencies

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pp. 69-88

In early December 1997, the Israeli Stock Exchange surprisingly expressed interest in the living conditions of the labor migrants. Oz Atid, a daughter company of manpower giant Dan El, made a public offering of stock to raise 42 million New Israeili Shebel (NIS) for expanding its labor migrants’ import operations. In spite of the recession in the market, their effort was a...

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FIVE Living and Working as Non-Israelis: Filipino Caregivers

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pp. 89-104

Linda says, “You cannot compare patients. Each one is a separate world.” But she likes Klara, the elderly woman for whom she cares, an intelligent person who reads German books and newspapers and gives Linda ample time to talk with friends on the telephone. On afternoons they go for walks, to a different place every day. Often, on such afternoons, Linda meets cousins...

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SIX Thai Agricultural Workers

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pp. 105-116

The world’s agricultural sector has long been linked to special programs for foreign workers. The well-known Bracero program in the United States, for example, recruited millions of seasonal Mexican workers for the prospering farms in southwestern states during its twenty-two years of operation (1942–1964) (Martin 2002; Martin et al. 1995). In Europe, the...

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SEVEN Rumanian Construction Workers

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pp. 117-129

The construction industry, including the small but significant building renovation sector, has consistently been the largest employer of foreign workers in Israel.1 At the height of the construction boom in 1996, approximately 76,000 construction workers were imported into Israel. Rumanians were the first to come, and they have remained the largest national group employed...

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EIGHT Illegal Labor Migrants: Life and Work on the Run

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pp. 131-152

Illegal labor migration has loomed large on the Israeli public agenda since the early 1990s, when the realization that in tandem with the contracted workers, illegal migrants and their families were settling on the outskirts of Israeli cities, especially Tel Aviv. In Israel, the public debate over illegal migrants often is seen as linked to the employment of labor migrants at large...

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NINE Deportation

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pp. 153-166

Since 2002, with the establishment of the Deportation Administration (or immigration police, as it is popularly known), deportation has become aggressive and brutal. Illegal foreign workers have been picked up at bus stations early in the morning, dragged from their apartments after doors were broken down in the middle of the night, or met by police as they arrived at...

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TEN The Rhythm of Policy and the Employment System

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pp. 167-180

In June 2006, in yet another twist, the Israeli government decided to ease the naturalization of children of labor migrants and lower the age threshold for citizenship entitlement from age ten to six. Also entitled for citizenship are children who had been living in Israel for at least six years and legally arrived before reaching age fourteen. It is estimated that about 1,400 families...

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ELEVEN Labor Migration Policies and National Identity

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pp. 181-195

Ubi est pane, ibi est patria (“Where there is bread, there is my country”). This ancient Latin maxim both captures and personalizes the forces that have propelled uncounted millions throughout history to seek their fortunes beyond their native lands. However, the precedence of economic considerations binding those individuals to their communities, as reflected in that saying, tells...


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pp. 197-214


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pp. 215-233


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pp. 235-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780791477090
E-ISBN-10: 0791477096
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791476895
Print-ISBN-10: 0791476898

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 5 tables, 1 figure
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: SUNY series in Israeli Studies