« | Home | »

Israel’s Builders

Tags: |

During Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Eastern Europe in the summer, the governments of Romania and Bulgaria agreed not to vote in favour of the Palestinian state at the UN. Israel has since arranged several thousand work permits for Romanian and Bulgarian builders. This is supposedly a win-win deal that shows the creativity of the Netanyahu government (he also suggested replacing striking Israeli doctors with physicians from India). On the one hand, Israel wants to speed up cheap construction to solve its housing crisis. On the other, Romania and Bulgaria will earn foreign currency and reduce unemployment. The deal will also strengthen Israel’s ties with Turkey’s European neighbours. 

When my grandfather Hezi Holdengerber arrived in Israel from Romania after the Holocaust, he and his brothers built roofs together. Now Jews work in construction only as bosses or engineers. Half of Israel’s construction workers are Arab citizens of Israel; the other half are Chinese or Palestinian, some of whom are likely to lose their jobs under the new agreements. 

More construction workers have died in Israel in the past decade than Israelis died in the wars with Gaza and Lebanon. But since the dead are Arab, Palestinian or Chinese, they don’t get much attention from the mainstream Israeli press. Hasan Sholi, a safety guide from the Arab village of Kabul in northern Israel (it’s mentioned in the Bible, the village that Solomon gave to Hiram of Tyre in exchange for help with building the Temple), is doing what he can to tackle the problem. His Facebook page is the only place where all the accidents are noted and listed. On average, someone falls from a great height on a construction site in Israel every 22 minutes. Between January and November this year, 33 workers died, compared to 23 in 2010. In Britain there are 2.4 deaths for every 100,000 workers. In Israel the figure is about 15. Twenty inspectors supervise 20,000 building sites and 200,000 labourers. And when a labourer dies, his employer never goes to jail.

Sholi says the arrival of the workers from Eastern Europe will only make matters worse. They do not know the Israeli safety protocols and it will be difficult to teach them. ‘What can you do,’ he says. ‘Hasan Sholi doesn’t speak Bulgarian.’

Comments on “Israel’s Builders”

  1. Pennywhistler says:

    Um … I’m sure there is a point to this. After all, LRB has articles on labor issues all over the world!

    Doesn’t it?

  2. Pennywhistler says:

    “More construction workers have died in Israel in the past decade than Israelis died in the wars with Gaza and Lebanon. ”

    An estimated 5 million people work in China’s coal-mining industry. As many as 20,000 miners die in accidents each year. And that’s more than all the Chinese soldiers killed in battle since 1960.
    Jes’ sayin’.

    The number of deaths per million ton of coal in China is about 100 times of that of the U.S., 30 times of that of South Africa, and 10 times of that of India. And that is more deaths than all the Indian soldiers killed since 1960. Jes’ sayin.

    And mine deaths are on the rise in South Africa. Last year, 63 people were killed on South Africa’s gold mines, which was a 22% drop from the 81 deaths in 2009.

    Jes’ sayin.

    Give me time and I will find a way to tie the Palestinians into all this. I swear!

    • Attrition says:

      Butchered any Gazan children lately?

    • rupert moloch says:

      Statistically, mining is the most dangerous civilian occupation. (More dangerous than working in construction, less dangerous than living in a zionist Bantustan)

      Jes’ sayin.

      And I don’t know that China has been engaged in too many wars since 1960?

      & the statistics you provide for South Africa don’t support your imputation, “mine deaths are on the rise”

  3. Harry Stopes says:

    Pennywhistler, China and South Africa (for the latter of which, incidentally, your statistics suggest a fall not a rise in miner deaths) are not the biggest recipients of military, economic and diplomatic support from the world’s richest and most powerful nation. Might that go some way to explaining the (supposed) focus?

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • andymartinink on Reacher v. Parker: Slayground definitely next on my agenda. But to be fair to Lee Child, as per the Forbes analysis, there is clearly a massive collective reader-writer ...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: And in Breakout, Parker, in prison, teams up with a black guy to escape; another white con dislikes it but accepts the necessity; Parker is absolutely...
    • Robert Hanks on Reacher v. Parker: Parker may not have the integrity and honesty of Marlowe, but I'd argue that Richard Stark writes with far more of both than Raymond Chandler does: Ch...
    • Christopher Tayler on Reacher v. Parker: Good to see someone holding up standards. The explanation is that I had thoughts - or words - left over from writing about Lee Child. (For Chandler se...
    • Geoff Roberts on Reacher v. Parker: ..."praised in the London Review of Books" Just read the article on Lee Child in a certain literary review and was surprised to find this rave notice...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Chris Lehmann: The Candidates
    18 June 2015

    ‘Every one of the Republican candidates can be described as a full-blown adult failure. These are people who, in most cases, have been granted virtually every imaginable advantage on the road to success, and managed nevertheless to foul things up along the way.’

    Hugh Pennington:
    The Problem with Biodiversity
    10 May 2007

    ‘As a medical microbiologist, for example, I have spent my career fighting biodiversity: my ultimate aim has been to cause the extinction of harmful microbes, an objective shared by veterinary and plant pathologists. But despite more than a hundred years of concentrated effort, supported by solid science, smallpox has been the only success.’

    Jeremy Harding: At the Mexican Border
    20 October 2011

    ‘The battle against illegal migration is a domestic version of America’s interventions overseas, with many of the same trappings: big manpower commitments, militarisation, pursuit, detection, rendition, loss of life. The Mexican border was already the focus of attention before 9/11; it is now a fixation that shows no signs of abating.’

    James Meek: When the Floods Came
    31 July 2008

    ‘Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t.’

Advertisement Advertisement