Workers Day: No Cause for Celebration for Palestinians Working in Israel
May 1 1014, marks International Workers’ Day. For Palestinian workers, there is not much cause for celebration: the day is a painful reminder that another year has gone by and nothing has changed. Palestinians are still denied basic rights, including the right to earn a living without risking their lives.
Work without a permit means endless suffering, worry and fear from the second I leave home. I leave early in the morning, at the beginning of the week, and head to the [Separation] Barrier in the Ramadin area in the South Hebron Hills. From there I enter Israel with other laborers. Usually, I have to wait near the barrier for hours, until I’m sure it’s safe. There’ve been times when I waited a whole day but finally had to go back home and miss a week of work. Every trip to work costs me 100 shekels [approx. 30 USD], which are split between the Palestinian who drives me to barrier and the Israeli driver who takes me from the barrier to Beersheba [in Israel].Once I reach my workplace, I make sure not to leave it. I stay in Beersheba for a week or two at a time. At the end of each work day, I stay on site with the other laborers. We have to sleep in rough condition in unfinished buildings, on the floor, with no electricity or bathroom. We never go out so that the police won’t catch us. If we need to buy something, one of us goes carefully to a grocery store. Mostly, we eat tinned food. Sometimes, we have to move from one building to another to sleep, so we won’t be caught in a police raid. It’s happened – and more than once – that the police raided the place we were in and we escaped.The contractors who hire me know that I don’t have a permit to enter Israel and use that to exploit me. They pay me only about 250 shekels a day [approx. 80 USD] and when I tell them it’s too little when taking my experience into account, they tell me I have no choice because I have no permit. I’ve also had times when my employer wouldn’t pay me at the end of the month and threatened that if I insisted on getting the money, he’d report me to the police. I have five little children and my wife works as a nurse. If I had a work permit, I could go home every day and help out with the kids. I worry because I’m so far away from them and I try to talk to them on the phone at least once a day.