The flight of foreign agricultural workers from Israel, and the hesitance of those remaining to work under rocket fire, created tremendous damage to farmers in the South, according to a claims attorney involved with many cases.
Over the month of Operation Protective Edge, about 80 farmhands from Thailand who were working in southern Israel left their positions, attorney Hagit Weinstock said on Tuesday. While some of the workers – particularly those who had recently arrived – returned directly to Thailand, others sought calmer farther north in Israel, she said.
When Thai worker Narakorn Kittiyangkul, 36, became the third civilian to die in Israel in a July 23 mortar attack in the Ashkelon Coast region, even those who had stayed began avoiding working the farms, Weinstock added. The wide-scale departure of employees has dealt the farms long-term damage, as it takes time to train new staff, she explained.
State compensation for direct damages – such as rocket strikes – is being paid caseby- case based on claims and security evaluations, according to the Tax Authority.
Last week, an outline of regulations approved by the Knesset Finance Committee expanded the number of farmers who could receive indirect compensation, from those within 7 km. of Gaza to those within 40 km. Payment for indirect damages – such as the inability to operate under fire – is being classified according to three geographical categories, with compensation rates based on the distance from the Strip.
Weinstock recommends that farmers and business owners who have the financial cushion to avoid filing hurriedly for compensation, and instead conduct a thorough examination of all of their damages to receive as much compensation as possible.
Agriculture is unique in that crops cannot be produced all year, thereby limiting the ability to make up losses, she said.
Weinstock, who said she is working with 20 to 30 moshavim and kibbutzim, stressed that on worker absences alone each moshav or kibbutz had lost about NIS 7 million.
“For all my clients, the workers are running away from their farms and they have no workers,” she said.
Although it is quiet during the current 72-hour ceasefire, Weinstock said that many of the workers do not believe that the calm will persist.
“Now, when we are talking, [the farmers] are having a problem getting them back,” she said.