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Sarah Netanyahu and the Migrant Worker

Bhumika Ghimire

Israeli Prime Minister’s wife,Sarah Netanyahu, is accused of mistreating Nepali migrant worker hired to take care of her ailing father.

Jerusalem Post has the story here.
The accusation is serious and I hope that it is investigated to the fullest and truth comes out. Migrant workers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. If this accusation is proven to be true, it will be a shame- a worker abused in the Prime Minister’s home? What kind of labor laws and protection does Israel have?
It is also important to note that Mrs. Netanyahu is not exactly loved by the Israeli media. Here are some examples:

In 2010, she was accused of wrongfully terminating an elderly gardener.
She was also sued by a former housekeeper last year.

Going by these stories and other reports on her, it is easy to judge Sarah Netanyahu as a troublesome employer, a mean person. But the overly negative tone of coverage, even when the accusation against Mrs. Netanyahu has not been proven, is troubling. How can a reader expect balanced coverage and fair representation when the press seems so vindictive?

I just hope that when Nepali media gets this story, they will look at the whole picture and not rush to judgement.

PM’s wife accused of maltreating a Nepali caretaker


Foreign worker from Nepal says PM's wife didn't feed her, cursed at her and didn't give her vacation time; PMO issues strong denial.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a strong denial Tuesday night of media reports that Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife, mistreated a foreign worker hired as a caretaker for her elderly father, in what has become almost a ritual of periodic media reports of Netanyahu’s alleged bad behavior, followed by PMO charges that the press is out to get her, and the Netanyahu family.

This time the story involves a foreign worker from Nepal, identified only as “T,” employed by the Netanyahus to look after Sara’s 96-year-old father, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, who was recently released from Hadassah University Hospital’s intensive care unit, and has been living for the past several weeks with the Netanyahus in the prime minister’s house.

According to a Channel 2 report, Sara suspected “T” of neglect and stealing money from her father. The report said that a fierce argument broke out between the two, during which “T” fell and hurt her hand on a table, after which a doctor was called.

“T,” who has been with Ben- Artzi for more than two years, charged in the Channel 2 report that Netanyahu didn’t feed her, cursed at her and didn’t give her vacation time. She has reportedly hired a lawyer.

The Prime Minister’s Office quickly issued a response saying the true story was “completely opposite” of what was reported.

According to the statement, the complaints registered by the worker were without foundation, and made only after it became known to her that the agency employing her was asked to find a replacement because she was negligent in her treatment of Ben-Artzi for a number of months.

“When it became known to her that she was about to be fired – something that could lead to her being deported from the country – she made up the story, and now there is a cynical and unworthy campaign against the Netanyahu family,” the statement said.

“Enough already of automatically throwing slime at the Netanyahu family,” the statement said. “Leave Mrs. Netanyahu alone to deal with her 96-year-old father, suffering from a severe illness who was just released from intensive care.”

The statement continued to state that the Netanyahu family “also has the right to replace negligent workers who are not giving the necessary treatment to their elderly parents.”

Meanwhile, the Hotline for Migrant Workers and Physicians for Human Rights issued a statement on Tuesday saying they had received a complaint that “raised serious suspicions about the work conditions of “T,” a migrant worker who lived in the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem and was employed as a caretaker for Sara Netanyahu’s father.”

The statement said the complaint alleged “T” was prevented from leaving the residence and was not paid severance pay “with the intention of ensuring that she would leave the country.

If this indeed turns out to be true, it would constitute the denial of the freedom of a worker and the exploitation of the worker’s weakness in order to exert pressure upon the worker.

“We are certain that this complaint will be examined by the relevant trustworthy bodies, and that the investigation will be carried out in an unbiased fashion.”

In January 2010, Netanyahu filed a lawsuit against Maariv seeking damages for a story the paper published alleging her of firing an elderly man who used to work as a gardener at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

That same month, a former cleaning lady named Lillian Peretz, filed suit against Netanyahu for alleged mistreatment and underpayment.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

Israel to reopen jobs for Nepali caregivers

Israel is opening for caregiver jobs to Nepali women from next week after over a two year ban.

Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affair Dr Madan Kumar Bhatttrai, confirmed the news of reopening of the job destination. “I have heard it from unofficial channels but no official information has come yet,” he said, adding that the information will reach to the ministry next week.

According to him, the government has persistently worked on to open the most lucrative job destination for Nepali migrant women.

The Israeli Interior Ministry said hiring of Nepali caregivers will start according to foreign caregiver hiring policy adopted in May and conditions adopted two years ago.

“Israel is opening caregivers for Nepali women,” an outsourcer in the business Prakash Karki confirmed, adding that Israel is hiring Nepali women under new guidelines and conditions. Israel had stopped hiring Nepali caregivers in April 2009, following Department of Population reports of over 1,000 illegal Nepalis in the country.

The report had blamed outsourcing agencies for charging more service fee for the job and compelling them to become illegal. Nepali migrant women workers had to pay at least $10,000 (Rs 700,000) for the job, while the official service fee was only around $2,800 (Rs 196,000).

Israel had asked Nepal to implement official service fee and punish the outsourcing agencies charging more than that.

However, the government failed to punish the outsourcing agencies identified by the host country. According to new guidelines, caregivers cannot change geographical area of work while changing employers.

Likewise, outsourcing agencies can not charge more than $3,400 (Rs 238,000) for the job that offers $650 (Rs 45,500).
HImalayan news service

After Caregiving: Picking up The Pieces

By Brenda Race

As a caregiver, we totally commit ourselves to caring for another person who no longer functions as they once did in the normal scheme of life. We move in with them or move them to us. We give up our jobs, our own independence, and very often our family and friends. We become so involved with the care of that person out of love that we ourselves are removed from normal day to day living. Our entire life revolves around comforting and making our loved one feel loved. We protect them at all costs. In a very real sense we have given our life for another.... not out of obligation but out of LOVE! The ultimate test of LOVE for another! Then one day we wake up and our commitment has been released to a far greater LOVE in a place of no more pain or suffering! We grieve and then the process of finding our way back into the world begins anew.

How do we pick up the pieces and start to live again? I guess there is no so-called normal pattern that each of us has to follow. It seems to come down to taking one step at a time...some walk slower than others and some speed their way back out into the world! Often we take one step forward and two backwards ... it is not an easy process but there is a life after caregiving! We just have to look forward and find opportunities that are once again there for us. Renew old friendships, find a job that you feel good doing, do volunteer work (we already know you are a caring concerned person!), find a new or renew an old hobby.... but begin to take a few small steps towards living again!

One of the best therapies is finding a friend you can talk who will listen and support you as you ease back into the world! Soon you will find that life does still exist and you are a part of it! Butterflies are still flying and the birds are still singing. The light of another day is showing through the clouds, and all that you gave up was well worth it in the end! We are better than ever for our commitment. We are forever changed in a good way.... no one can ever take that total love away from us as we again join the world!

Israel’s Cornered ‘Slaves’ Speak Out

A new Israeli law that would bind migrant workers in nursing or care-giving professions to their employers is raising alarm amidst human rights groups and legal experts, who say that the law infringes upon the workers’ right to dignity and freedom.

"This law mainly affects women caregivers who come legally to Israel. These caregivers will be able to stay in Israel as long as they work for the employer who brought them into the country, usually an elderly person or a handicapped person," explained Sigal Rozen, from the Hotline for Migrant Workers, a Tel-Aviv based organisation working to promote the rights of undocumented migrant workers and refugees in Israel.

"Very often it happens that these (employers) pass away and then the caregivers have to find a new employer. The new law will limit them tremendously in their possibilities to find a new employer," she said.

Amendment 21 to the Israel Entry Act – which has become known as the "Slavery Law" – would authorise the Israeli Ministry of Interior to bind migrant caregivers to their employers and to specific sectors of nursing services, limit the number of times a worker can switch employers, and only allow caregivers to work in a certain geographic area inside Israel.

Should a foreign worker leave his or her employer because of poor conditions or salary, or violate any of the above provisions, that worker would become an illegal resident that can then be deported.

The legislation faced widespread opposition from various groups in Israel and abroad, including an open letter signed by a group of prominent Israeli lawyers, law professors and judges which argued that the law would "wrongfully infringe on the basic rights of migrant workers, by creating and enhancing their dependence on their employers for their legal status, and by limiting their ability to escape from abusive employment conditions."

Ninety-one Jewish-American legal experts also sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli parliament (Knesset) Speaker Reuven Rivlin in early May, urging them to reconsider the controversial amendment.

Despite this, the law was passed by a vote of 26-6 in the Knesset on Monday, May 16. According to the Israeli Ministry of Interior, the new law will ensure that workers don’t abandon their employers while also helping reduce the number of illegal workers in Israel.

The government is also said to be concerned with the fact that there is a shortage of caregivers working in some nursing fields and in remote areas of the country.

Rozen, however, said that despite the government’s arguments in favour of the law, it contravenes a 2006 Israeli Supreme Court ruling.

Indeed, in March 2006, five human rights organisations challenged a similar binding arrangement of migrant workers to their employers in Israel. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that this arrangement should be repealed since it "violates the dignity and liberty of the foreign workers" and constitutes "a modern form of slavery."

Ultimately, the Supreme Court gave the Israeli government six months to cancel the binding policy; it didn’t.

"For five years actually, Israel is violating the Supreme Court ruling. What they are doing now is making a law that will go around the Supreme Court ruling and will make the binding policy legal," Rozen said.

Rozen added that while the specific details of the new law – how many times a caregiver can switch employers, for instance – have yet to be determined by the Ministry of Interior, another appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court is likely.

"We hope that it will be as less limited as possible. But in any case, I assume we will have to address the Supreme Court again the moment we will know exactly what (the law) means," she said.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) estimates that there are presently approximately 55,000 migrant caregivers in Israel, the majority of whom are women. Most come to Israel from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and the Philippines.

According to Ramesh Sharma, the 28-year-old Head Representative of the Caregivers’ Union in Israel, a branch of the Koach Laovdim union ("Power to the Workers" in Hebrew), the "Slavery Law" will have a devastating impact on women caregivers especially.

"If you are getting sexually harassed in the employer’s house, what choice do you have? You can just do one thing: leave the employer. The new law will mean that in this case, you either leave the job and leave the country, or continue to be exploited," Sharma told IPS.

"A lot of the workers don’t want to say (that they were sexually harassed or abused) because they are ashamed. Even when they are exploited inside the employers’ house, they don’t want to say," he added.

Originally from the city of Indore, in the Madhya Pradesh region of India, Sharma has worked as a caregiver in Israel for nearly four years and currently takes care of an elderly man living with Alzheimer’s in Jerusalem.

He explained that the major challenges facing migrant caregivers in Israel are long working hours – sometimes 24 hours a day if the employer is severely handicapped – poor living conditions, and sexual harassment or abuse.

"(Israeli politicians) claim that they want to improve the conditions but they are not acting to improve the conditions. (This new law is) making it more difficult to stay here. It’s the start of slavery," Sharma said.

Major demonstrations were organised in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv over the past few months to demand migrant caregivers’ rights and attempt to draw attention to the impact of the "Slavery Law." Now that the law is passed, however, Sharma said that he wasn’t sure what steps will be taken next. "I was so disappointed," he told IPS. "But I believe that now the workers are forced to speak out and I hope we will go together to ask for our rights."

Author: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours

Alzheimer's Hero

Valerie Stephenson

You entered my world extending your hand,
Reaching for the “me” that I had lost.
You helped me remember who I am
With kind and gentle reminders
Of the memories composing my life.

You took the time to know me
Beyond the intricacies of my disease—
You helped me find my way, each day,
Easing my fears,
Helping me feel that I still belong.

You overlooked my daily confusion,
Understanding the rage, giving me comfort.
You walked along with me, not for me,
Helping me face the day
With a sense of dignity and a semblance of pride.

My memory fades,
But I know when someone cares.
And I know when I look into your eyes
That you are my hero.
For you are faithful, you are strong,
And you respect the best of who I am.
And I know that your belief and steadfastness
Have allowed me to rediscover
The strength and courage
Of the hero that lies within me.
Click the links & have a wonderful surfing!