Danger instead of hunger Thousands of Indians are looking for

Danger instead of hunger: Thousands of Indians are looking for work in Israel

'It's better than starving here': Despite the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, thousands of Indians are queuing up for jobs in Israel due to a labor shortage due to the war.

“I will smile and take a bullet – but for 150,000 rupees” ($2,428), tells AFP Deepak Kumar, who is meeting with a crowd of exile candidates at a training and recruitment center in Lucknow, 500 km east of New Delhi. has gathered.

In India the rule is: “Work four days, eat for two,” complains this tiler, who says he knows the risks of traveling to Israel, where the war against Hamas has been raging for almost four months.

Although India is the world's fifth largest economy and one of the fastest growing economies, millions of people there cannot find full-time employment.

According to government data, nearly 22% of India's wage earners are “casual workers” with an average monthly income of 7,899 rupees ($127.90). In the construction industry in particular, interruptions to construction sites are generally not compensated.

So the hope of being hired as a skilled construction worker in Israel is greater than the danger, with the prospect of increasing your salary 18 times.

“If it is written that we must die, we will die there. At least our children will have something,” said Jabbar Singh, a motorcycle repairer. “It’s better than being hungry here,” he said simply.

10,000 Indians wanted

According to the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv, around 18,000 Indians are already working in Israel. Mostly in the area of ​​personal assistance, but also in the diamond sector, artificial intelligence or students.

But the war has reshuffled the cards and new profiles are being sought: “Tilers, plasterers, carpenters, benders,” says MA Khan, who is responsible for placing workers at the Lucknow Industrial Training Institute.

The conflict led to the repatriation of thousands of workers from Asia, the mobilization of numerous Israeli reservists and the abolition of work permits for Palestinian workers.

Israeli recruiters are currently seeking up to 10,000 qualified construction workers for salaries of up to 140,000 rupees (about $2,266), according to Raj Kumar Yadav, the institute's director.

“They will give them a visa and take them on a charter flight,” he says, and “10,000 families will be fed.”

The program is supported by the Indian authorities, this official explains, stressing that it offers a form of security to would-be immigrants who would otherwise risk falling into the hands of human traffickers.

The number of volunteers is growing day by day: “On the first day we had around 600 candidates, of which more than 300 were selected. Yesterday there were more than 1,000 candidates and more than 750 were selected. Today there are 1,200 to 1,300 candidates,” points out MA Khan.

“Red Zone”

While job seekers line up in Lucknow, Israel is intensifying its offensive 4,500 kilometers away against Khan Younes in the south of the Gaza Strip.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, which launched an unprecedented attack on its territory on October 7 that killed around 1,140 people, according to an AFP count based on Israeli figures. Hamas also captured around 250 hostages.

Dozens of Thai and Nepalese farm workers were killed or taken hostage.

Many foreign workers fled after the attack, depriving agriculture of an important source of labor. Israel also revoked the work permits of 130,000 Palestinian cross-border workers.

“I know I’m going into a red zone. But I have to feed my family,” summarizes Keshav Das, father of two children, in Lucknow. “Otherwise my children will starve,” he emphasizes. “There is no work here.”