A First Update on the Unprecedented Challenges faced by workers in Israel.
Since the morning of Saturday, October 7, 2023, Israel has found itself under the relentless assault of Hamas terrorists, who have invaded our communities and disrupted our lives in the most devastating way possible.
In a mere 24 hours, the confirmed death toll in Israel skyrocketed to over 500 innocent lives lost, while the number of wounded climbed to a staggering 1,500. The second day of this crisis saw not only an exponential increase in casualties, but also a heartbreaking surge in the count of individuals kidnapped from their beds, their homes, and locked shelters. Hundreds more massacred and kidnapped from a bush party.
Grief and uncertainty now loom large, affecting every corner of our nation. As we grapple with the logistical challenges and increased care demands, our Israeli workforce has been left paralyzed, struggling to cope with the enormity of the situation, lack of safety, amounting care needs, and consequent services instability.
Across the country, thousands of families are mourning the loss of their beloved ones. The deeply ingrained cultural practice of sitting shiva, a seven-day mourning period at home, compounds the emotional burden. Many are also extending their support to friends, neighbours, and extended family members who share their grief.
For the hundreds of missing individuals, confirmed hostages, and soldiers with whom all contact has been severed, the growing uncertainty casts a long shadow over their lives. Desperate parents of the missing have come together, sharing their harrowing experiences of hearing their loved ones on the phone while they hide from the Hamas terrorists. They have fervently pleaded with government, military officials, and the media to establish reliable communication channels with them.
Meanwhile, thousands more are tirelessly caring for the injured. Local hospitals, overwhelmed by the influx of patients, are forced to transfer some to facilities further north. Family members are stepping in, driving longer distances to provide support to their loved ones facing critical care. The survivors of the tragic outdoor party massacre near Kibbutz Re’im, along with injured soldiers from different regions of the country, are drawing their families even further apart, as they embark on lengthy journeys to be by their side.
As schools remain closed for safety reasons, parents across the nation are compelled to stay at home to care for their children. The trauma experienced by our young ones is both profound and enduring, necessitating not only physical supervision but also the delicate task of guiding them through the traumatic events, graphic footage, and distressing news. Random childcare arrangements are emotionally unsafe in this context, as our children require a structured and compassionate environment to process their feelings and fears. This leaves parents with significantly diminished capacity to fulfill their work responsibilities while attending to their children’s well-being.
In addition to the aforementioned educational disruption, the pervasive sense of insecurity blankets our country as we endure the relentless barrage of missile attacks and increased incidents of Hamas terrorists infiltrating our borders. These required the mandated shut down of many businesses in the southern regions. With hundreds of thousands of reserve soldiers being called to duty, we experience an abrupt halt in economic activity which is sending shockwaves through all industries and resulting in critical workforce shortages. Grocery shops, essential for our daily needs, have limited operations capacity, further exacerbating the strain on our communities by limiting access to basic necessities. The weight of these challenges, both known and unforeseen, now rests heavily on the shoulders of people across Israel.
The traumatic impact of this crisis extends far beyond the boundaries of any single community, affecting individuals of diverse backgrounds residing in Israel. Hamas terrorists have shown no discrimination in their attacks, resulting in the tragic loss and abduction of foreign nationals, including Nepalese and Thai workers and students, whose fates remain uncertain. The toll has been equally devastating for European and US citizens, many of whom have lost their lives, been taken hostage, or suffered injuries. Furthermore, indiscriminate missile strikes from the Gaza Strip have also targeted semi-nomadic Bedouin communities, forcing them to flee their homes and makeshift dwellings in search of safety. These acts portray abhorrent and indiscriminate ideologies, placing workers and people of all backgrounds at life-threatening risk and violating fundamental human rights.
In response to the multifaceted challenges faced by workers in Israel, the Histadrut is actively assessing its role in supporting the nation. In an immediate response, the Histadrut is reserving numerous guest rooms within its facilities, including Beit Berl, the International Institute for Leadership, and Mishan, a senior residency provider, to shelter residents from the southern regions who urgently require evacuation.
Recognizing the profound emotional toll inflicted by this conflict upon all Israeli residents, the Histadrut has transformed its information and service center into an emergency hotline. This dedicated team of psychologists, in collaboration with the Union of Psychologists in Israel, and social workers, is providing essential emotional support to all people in Israel during these challenging times. Additionally, comprehensive guidance on employment rights during wartime is being offered, addressing inquiries from both union members and non-members, all closely aligned with the directives of the IDF’s Home Front Command.
Notably, Histadrut workers have initiated impactful efforts as well. Regional district teams are currently conducting collection and distribution missions for essential food items, books, clothes, and toys to support families in need across the nation.
As we navigate these trying times, it is clear that unity and collective action are our greatest strengths. The challenges faced by our nation, encompassing workers, families, and communities, underscore the urgency for solidarity. Let us stand together, support one another, and extend a helping hand to those in need.
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