Israel approves quota for foreign workers amid labor shortage

Seeking to address a labor shortage, Israeli officials approved a quota of 92,000 foreign workers to fill jobs in agriculture, industry, hotels, and restaurants, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Tuesday. This marks the first time Israel has authorized foreign workers for the restaurant industry.

Seventy percent of the quota is specifically set aside for agricultural laborers. Israeli agriculture is facing losses in production and manpower. Before October 7, Israel had 29,900 foreigners, mostly Thais, working in farms, orchards, greenhouses, and packing plants.

Israeli workers who might have filled the gaps have been called up for military reserve duty while Palestinian Authority Arab laborers are currently banned as security risks. Many growing areas are within two kilometers of the Lebanese border where farmers have not been able to freely access fields and orchards.

“Despite the challenges of the war, the packing house works around the clock, with the aim of providing fresh Israeli produce continuously, while dealing with the directives of the Home Front Command,” said Asaf Keret, CEO of Beresheet, a fruit-packing business jointly run by several kibbutzim in the Upper Galilee and Golan Heights.

Keret was addressing a delegation of fruit growers and agricultural officials touring Beresheet’s orchards. He called on the government to boost agriculture with further measures, such as grants for planting, raising quotas, and other incentives.

“The fruit growers are at the height of the picking season and are faced with picking under the fire of Hezbollah, and we are prepared to market the produce of the farmers of the Galilee and the Golan to the marketing chains and wholesale companies. Thanks to our dedicated farmers and workers, I am sure that we will be able to supply the produce to the residents of the State of Israel,” Keret said.

The remaining foreign workers will fill gaps in industry, and hotels, with 2,000 to work for the first time in restaurants.