Hundreds of migrant workers will converge on the Tel Aviv Cinematheque Saturday for an annual gathering dedicated to recognizing their rights in Israel and the contributions they have made to this country's economy and workforce.
Against the backdrop of International Migrants Day, which was marked worldwide on December 18, the Hotline for Migrant Workers, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Kav La'oved (Workers Hotline), Physicians for Human Rights, African Refugees Development Center, La Escuelita and Focal Magazine will offer Israel's foreign workers a chance to sell their wares, gather information about their rights and watch several films about the plight of fellow workers.
"The idea behind International Migrant's Day is to remind us of their humanity, to expose their culture, dreams and needs," said Shevy Korzen, the executive director of the Hotline for Migrant Workers.
"When we think about migrant workers, what we usually see are laborers - foreign - living at the outskirts of our society."
She added: "[The event is] an opportunity for Israelis and migrants to meet as equals, learn from each other and for us, as a society, to take a renewed and closer look at those living among us and at ourselves."
NGOs that work with migrant workers estimate that there are roughly 180,000 migrants in Israel.
"Those that are residing here without permits are not very likely to come on Saturday," continued Korzen, adding that this is the sixth year the event is taking place. "Usually it's migrants living in Tel Aviv that come to the event, along with many Israelis. It's a gathering on an equal basis that makes it unique."
Organizers plan to screen three movies: 52/50 (the nickname for vehicles belonging to the immigration police in Israel) directed by Uri Bar-On; Working Mom by Limor Ponhasov and Yaron Kaftori, about a Bolivian woman who spent 15 years in Israel working and sending money home to her family, only to find it had been squandered; and Journey of Hope directed by Xavier Koller about workers in nearby Turkey.
International Migrants Day was initiated on December 4, 2000, by the United Nations General Assembly, with the aim of disseminating information on human rights and the fundamental freedoms of migrants throughout all member countries.