The Government of Israel has signed an order that allows thousands of young people over 18 to participate in the citrus harvest to face the serious shortage of citrus pickers in the midst of the campaign, caused by the measures taken to prevent the expansion of the coronavirus, which prevented the entry of Thai and Palestinian seasonal workers into the country.
According to data released by the Plant Production and Marketing Board, since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the 15,000 Thai workers who have left the country have not been allowed to return, and another 5,000 Palestinian workers face similar restrictions.
All this puts more pressure on the sector, which before the disease was already facing a major labor crisis, with an estimated temporary worker deficit of around 16,000 people.
Young workers will be required to comply with strict regulations established by the Ministry of Health to prevent contagion, including maintaining a distance of 2 meters from coworkers, using gloves and masks, and washing their hands on a regular basis.
Volunteers will work for alternate 10-day periods to prevent cross-contamination. In addition to recruited youth, Israel has seen a dramatic increase in volunteers who have not received a salary due to the outbreak and prefer to contribute to society rather than stay home.
Joel Silberman, the director of the New Guard, an organization that aims to foster the relationship between farmers and society in Israel, said: “This week we received very important news for the entire state of Israel, the Ministry of Education will now allow Israel's youth to participate in securing the country's food, fruit, and vegetables. This is of enormous importance in a situation where farmers are experiencing a major labor crisis that directly threatens crops. Let's hope that this movement also indicates a change in atmosphere and the search for solutions to achieve the end of the crisis.”