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Thousands of Thai agricultural workers return to Israel after 8-month hiatus following Hamas invasion

Thai worker harvests the Hadassim (Myrtle branches) for export to Jewish communities around the world, 3 weeks ahead of the Sukkoth Festival, Moshav Nov, Golan Heights, September 15, 2022. (Photo: Michael Giladii/Flash90)

The nation of Thailand will begin sending agricultural workers to Israel beginning this week, according to the Thai Ministry of Labour, ending an eight-month pause since the start of the war between Hamas and Israel. 

In their announcement, the Thai Ministry of Labour (MOL) reiterated the importance of worker safety, stating, "The government asked for the cooperation of the Israeli government to help emphasize to employers to take care of the safety of Thai workers."

The first group of approximately 200 workers is slated to depart from Bangkok tomorrow, with a second group scheduled to follow in early July. 

Approximately 30,000 Thai laborers were working in Israel’s agricultural sector before Oct. 7, accounting for one of the largest groups of foreign nationals employed in the country. 

On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists killed 39 Thai workers and abducted 32 others into the Gaza Strip during its invasion and brutal massacre of Israel's southern border communities. Following the attack, approximately 7,000 workers decided to return to Thailand, triggering the worst agricultural crisis in Israel's modern history. However, the remaining workers, many of whom were located in areas far from Gaza, chose to stay in Israel.

In November, 23 Thai workers were released after 50 days of captivity, as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. Qatar played an instrumental role in those negotiations, which included a "hostages-for-Palestinian prisoners" deal.

To date, six Thai hostages are believed to still be in captivity.

In 2012, Israel and Thailand forged a bilateral agreement known as the Thai-Israel Cooperation on the Placement of Workers (TIC). The agreement provided easy access for Thai workers to work on moshavs (farms) throughout the country.

Many Thai citizens struggle with extreme poverty and growing debt in Southeast Asia, especially in the rural northeast region of the country. They come to Israel seeking higher wages and a better future for their families.

Officials from Thailand visited Israel to gather information firsthand before approving the return of workers to Israel, according to a PBS report. The Thai MOL offers workers 63-month contracts and intends to have more than 10,000 of its citizens working in Israel by the end of 2024.

“We are ready for Thai workers to return to work in Israel. Moreover, we are now negotiating to secure additional jobs in the construction and industrial sectors,” the MOL said.

The Ministry of Labour reportedly expects up to 100,000 Thais to work overseas this year, with approximately 67,000 already working abroad, including in Taiwan and Japan.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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