Ageism and Israel’s fictitious labor shortage

Tens of thousands of Jews have left Israel because managers refuse to hire them due to their age. Tens or hundreds of thousands of competent “older” people live in poverty because they cannot find work. They are prevented from working by countless rules and regulations imposed by businesses and government bureaucracies. At the same time Israel is importing large numbers of foreign workers because of a so-called labor shortage.

There is no labor shortage. The fact is that a corrupt business and political elite imposes all sorts of rules and regulations which exclude “older” olim and veteran Israelis from education and employment. That is why the first thing one is asked when looking for employment is one’s age, or date of birth. Competence and motivation? Don’t make me laugh. We are governed by a ruling class whose sole motives are greed and self-enrichment.

No money for English teachers

This past fall, I began an intensive one-year course for native speakers of English in Katzrin in order to receive a teaching certificate. There is a severe shortage of English teachers, particularly in northern Israel. Here the former kibbutzim (which have themselves been destroyed by countless regulations and economic restrictions) rarely assimilate new immigrants and many if not most of the former immigrants (and current teachers of English) are now of retirement age.

Since the money allocated for new English teachers goes to the colleges – not, God forbid, to help the students – only a small number of olim in Northern Galilee and the Golan took the course. Which also means not working for nearly a year, something which few people can afford. Nevertheless if you are above the age of 30 there are no scholarships, while if you are a student you are not entitled to supplementary income. Tough luck!

So I had to give up studying. Off to Eilat to find work.

Eilat’s so-called labor shortage

During my two days in Eilat I met all sorts of people who enthusiastically told me about opportunities for employment and housing. I became increasingly enthusiastic. However, despite the fact that the employment agencies did their best to help me, I could not find a job. Why? I was continuously told that due to my age (64) I was unable to perform “hard work”. Nor was it “appropriate” for me to live in units with “younger” people – it was also against the rules! There are countless regulations which dictate that you have no choice but to sit the whole day (which is extremely unhealthy) in extremely depressing circumstances.

I tried to counter with the following arguments: I speak five languages and have considerable experience; I am extremely healthy and can prove that I am in better condition than many employees in their twenties; I worked last year at a ‘student job’ and was known as the best and physically strongest worker (though at first they didn’t want to take me because I was “too old”); I like working with younger people and they are nearly always the ones who encourage me in the first place.

People hired solely because of their age

During those two days I saw how many people who could not speak Hebrew and were not always the healthiest received employment and housing.

Nevertheless, I was told that rules are rules and that due to my age I could not be offered employment – and even if I did receive employment, I could not be housed.

Hundreds of thousands condemned to inactivity

And my situation is not different from that of hundreds of thousands of others in Israel. Many people are forcibly retired at 67. Those who are allowed to work part-time can only be employed a few hours a week – otherwise they lose their pensions.

The corrupt elite can care less

The corrupt ruling business and political elite in Israel could care less. And even when the Knesset passes laws, those in power they simply refuse to implement them. For instance, if a bill is passed to alleviate long lines in hospitals bureaucrats simply don’t transfer the money so that the funds go back to the treasury at the end of the financial year. That way the corrupt cronies can neglect public health – which they believe should be privatized – and spend public funds as they please. Power in Israel means absolute arrogance and contempt for everyone but the members of the ruling elite and their cronies. Israel desperately needs more new immigrants who will work towards changing this situation.

Consider people, not numbers

Age discrimination in employment, housing and education should be banned outright. For one, there should be no age restrictions in programs for new immigrants, such as those geared to ‘young’ professionals. If Auschwitz has taught us anything, it is that people are not numbers.

About the Author
Asaf Shimoni is an author, journalist and translator who returned to Israel on October 1, 2023 after spending more rhan 40 years abroad, most of them in the Netherlands. He is currently milking cows on a kibbutz after living for five months in Haifa. He grew up near Boston, made aliyah while living on a kibbutz (from 1973 to 1976), and graduated from Syracuse University in 1978. He also lived some 5 years in Sicily. He believes that the media should be as critical and truthful as possible.
Related Topics
Related Posts