Over 20 years ago I worked on an Israeli moshav* for three months, mostly picking grapes. It was a mixed experience. I worked with some really good people from all around the world and the history of the area was amazing with the ruins of the ancient city of Tel Lachish being on our doorstep.
It varied how the foreign workers in the community were treated but the farmer I worked for had us doing long hours seven days a week for half the pay to what the locals would get for the same job.
I wasn’t surprised when I saw this report from HRW about the plight of Thai workers in Israel who we knew back then got sent to the toughest moshavs near the West Bank.
Today there’s 25,000 Thais working on Israeli farms and according to Human Rights Watch they’re getting treated appallingly.
The HRW video above reveals how many Thai workers live and work in hazardous conditions. Many of the workers report that they get paid less than what they were promised, that their hours are long and there is little time off.
Israel does have decent laws protecting foreign workers but they’re poorly enforced so abuses are rampant, to the extent that HRW says there are concerns that many:
Thai workers are in fact being worked to death.
Israeli official figures show a disturbing pattern of deaths of Thai workers says HRW. From 2008 to 2013, according to government figures reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz, 122 Thai workers died in Israel.
They included 43 whose deaths authorities attributed to “sudden nocturnal death syndrome,” a heart condition that is said to affect young and otherwise healthy Asian men, and 22 who died from causes that are unknown because the authorities did not conduct autopsies.
HRW has also released a 48-page report A Raw Deal: Abuses of Thai Workers in Israel’s Agricultural Sector.
*Moshav is the Hebrew word for settlement.