Economy Minister Naftali Bennett inaugurated two employment centers for the Beduin in the Negev on Tuesday, out of a total of nine planned to be finished by the end of the year at a cost of NIS 100 million.
Bennett explained that “connecting the Beduin population to the job market is of the greatest importance, not only for them but also for Israel’s economy and society.
“The Israeli government is ready to extend a hand to integrate the Beduin in all spheres. Today, I was fascinated by what I saw. There is a positive spirit and a genuine desire to take responsibility and you will receive our support,” he added.
The Bayit Yehudi chairman added a personal anecdote, demonstrating his gratitude toward the Beduin: “A Lebanese Beduin saved my life during my army service, so I also feel a personal debt to the Beduin community.
“In the name of the government of Israel, I say that we love you. We will do all we can, in cooperation with you, to integrate yet more Beduin men and women into the workforce.”
During the trip, Bennett was updated by a local community leader on the progress of the new industrial park, Idan HaNegev, which includes a SodaStream factory. It has already begun to employ local Beduin, with plans to expand and employ 2000 workers.
A Beduin leader told those gathered that he was delighted to meet Bennett for the first time. We are talking about a man who sees no difference between a Jew and an Arab and is just looking to improve the social-economic situation, he said.
Michal Tzuk, director of employment regulation and senior deputy director-general in the Economy Ministry, said that increasing the employment rate of minorities is a goal of the ministry.
The employment centers are run by the Economy Ministry together with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Joint Distribution Committee Israel.
The employment centers program began as a pilot in 2010 in Hurra, Segev Shalom and the Beersheba region, and because of its success it was expanded to other Beduin communities.
The centers have handled over 3,000 employment requests and placed 1,858 in jobs at a 57 percent success rate.
Large Israeli employers such as Bezeq, Israel Electric Corporation, Strauss, SodaStream, and Coca-Cola have hired workers from the program.