Some 74 Arab employees of SodaStream, who lost their jobs when the company shut its Judea and Samaria plant in the face of international pressure, will return to work at its factory in southern Israel.
The employees’ work permits, which allowed them to enter Israel from the Palestinian Authority, expired in February 2016.
The Israeli government agreed to reinstate the permits after persistent requests from SodaStream and its CEO Daniel Birnbaum, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.
“We are delighted to welcome back our 74 devoted Palestinian employees, who are able to join their 1,500 friends at our Rahat facility in the Negev,” Birnbaum told the newspaper. “The Israeli government did the moral and honorable thing to grant work permits to our employees, who can now provide for their families and also prove that coexistence is possible.”
In October 2014, SodaStream announced it would close its factory in Maale Adumim and move to southern Israel in the face of pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, which seeks to hurt Israel’s economy. It had been an example of coexistence from which both Jews and Palestinian Arabs, whose wages were much higher at SodaStream than the average PA salary, could benefit. Friendly relations between Jew and Arab in Judea is the last thing BDS radicals want, however, and they worked hard to harm sales from the factory even though it meant hundreds of Arabs would lose their livelihoods..
Some 500 Arab employees lost their jobs at that time. Israel gave the remaining 74 employees permission to enter the country and continue to work for SodaStream until February 2016.
The company, continuing its policy of employing Arabs, now relocated to within the 1949 Armistice Lines, has more than 1,400 employees in the Idan Hanegev industrial park near Rahat, one-third of them Bedouin Arabs from the surrounding area.
The Maale Adumim Arab employees will have to leave for work at 4:30 a.m. in order to make the long commute and be there on time, but at least one told the Post that he does not care.
“SodaStream is our second home,” Ali Jafar, 42, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “When you have the opportunity to return home, you return.”