Do we care?


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One of the first autobiographies I read, which encouraged me to engage in knowing the lives of world leaders, was that of Moshe Dayan, an Israeli soldier and statesman who led Israel to dramatic victories over its Arab neighbors, and who became a symbol of security to his countrymen.

Moshe Dayan started as a guerilla warrior in 1937 in the special night squadrons organized by the British to fight Arab rebel bands in Palestine; they formed the nucleus of the Jewish army.

Convinced that the Jews would have to fight for their independence, Moshe Dayan joined an illegal Jewish defense force, and was arrested and imprisoned by British authorities. After his release, he led Palestinian Jewish forces against the Vichy French in Syria, where he lost his left eye in action (the telescope was hit by a bullet), thereafter wearing the black patch that became his “hallmark”.

That autobiography introduced me to the early leaders of Israel, foremost among them were Ben Gurion (considered the father of Israel), and the politician Golda Meir who helped found the State of Israel (1948), and later served as its fourth prime minister (1969–74). She was the first woman to hold the post.

Moshe Dayan’s autobiography also introduced me to the major wars waged between Israel and its Arab neighbors since the creation of the Israel State, which were in the core of Dayan’s life as a soldier and defense secretary.

Still fresh in my mind were the Yom Kippur and the Six-Day wars which showed the bravery and resolve of the Israelites to survive in the midst of the Arab world.

Reading the book about Moshe Dayan was like watching a horrific war movie.

As regards Israel, on November 1947, the Philippines voted for the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 recommending partition of Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish State.

The Philippines was among the 33 countries that supported the creation of the State of Israel — the only Asian country, in fact, which voted for the resolution.

Thirteen countries voted against it,  while 10 abstained.

Carlos P. Romulo, our representative then to the United Nations, was actually personally against it, but had to vote in favor of the Resolution per instruction from his principal, the President Manuel Roxas, who feared for reprisals from the US which threatened to withdraw assistance for our country.

Actually, the West allegedly made a lot of arm-twisting tactics all over the world, due to the influence of Jews who were the captains of the industries in the west, and who showed the strength of economic power. (To this day, they continue to control the superpower’s financial district of Wall Street.)

At least 167 of the 193 UN member-states officially recognize Israel, with the United Arab Emirates (including the capital Abu Dhabi, and Dubai), Bahrain, Sudan, Morocco, and Bhutan recently in 2020.

About 28 member-states of the United Nations have never recognized Israel, most of which are Muslim nations like the Arab League (including Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen); members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, and Pakistan); Cuba, North Korea, and Venezuela.

Here comes the Israel-Hamas war which broke out about two weeks ago.

This recent fight wherein Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel is the latest in seven decades of war and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that has drawn in outside powers and destabilized the wider Middle East.

A former military chief rabbi, who came out of retirement to become one of the leaders of an Israeli operation to identify the more than 1,400 dead from the raids by Hamas fighters on Oct. 7, exclaimed: I open the door to the cooling containers, I see the bodies, I smell the odor, I let it fill my lungs and my heart, but what I feel is their pain and the loss.”

A Manila Times columnist also wrote: “It is a war whose inhumanity screams at us in our smartphones as we watch missiles rain on the innocent, and where we all become witnesses to the cries of pain, suffering, and despair of those who are orphaned….We hear the screams and the cries of the babies losing their parents.”

This should be happening on both sides. I do not think we are in a position to judge who is on the wrong side of history as we are not completely privy to where each of the two major parties are coming from.

Could this be a creation of the UN which supposedly just wanted peace in a troubled land? Or of some powerful countries which just wanted to advance their own interests?

The present situation brings lumps into our throats. For the next of kin of our Overseas Filipino Workers in Israel, the scenario must be creating a serious tightening of chest. The killing then of three Filipino caregivers has underscored the real threats faced by all our expat workers abroad.

Reports say that more than 130 Filipinos are stranded in Gaza, looking for a way out from the impending Israeli siege. Those married to Palestinians may be torn between love for their spouses and new families, and their personal safety.

About 30,000 Filipinos live and work in Israel, many as caregivers who look after the elderly, the ill, and those with physical disabilities, according to the Philippine foreign ministry.

A former colleague from Bohol at the Department of Labor Region 7, who had a stint as officer of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (now Migrant Workers Office), and who was also assigned in Riyadh and Rome (after me), shared to me that about 90 percent of the OFWs in Israel are caregivers, 80 percent of whom are women. The rest are chefs, hotel staff, and other service industry workers.

He also noted that our OFWs in Israel seem to encounter “less problems” than those who work in the Middle East (like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Bahrain), who are mainly hounded by homesickness. Infidelity-related issues, however, are almost the same in the Arab countries as in Europe.

OFWs in Israel also enjoy not only better remuneration but also other work-related benefits like insurances and regular incentives like days-off. Filipino workers in Israel are allowed to go malling, enjoy social drinking in bars/clubs, join parties and discos in a liberal society.

Organizing OFWs is allowed in Israel, unlike in some Arab countries where even (non-Muslim) religious activities are restricted.

In Oman, religious organizations such as Couples for Christ, and churches like Iglesia ni Kristo and Seventh Day Adventist are allowed to exist freely; although only two churches were constructed to cater to Roman Catholics, and only one organization of OFWs is recognized, and the rest have to affiliate with the lone legal Filipino Community Organization (FilCom).

In Rome where I was assigned, there are as many Filipino organizations as there are willing leaders. The losers in organizational elections can always form new groups right the next day, and get themselves recognized by the Italian government and the Philippine Embassy.

Concerted action such as rallies, or even strikes, are allowed subject to guidelines and approval of the government. During my stint in Rome, I had witnessed a number of rallies organized by Filcom against our own Ambassador or against their own Philippine Embassy.

In Oman, organizing and concerted actions are “allowed” but only on paper. (Organizing efforts then were prepared clandestinely, perhaps like how Andres Bonifacio formed the Katipunan.) The Royal Police are always on the look-out for organized activities among expats, and even those planned by their own nationals.

Someone was able to successfully organize the group ‘Boholano OFWs in Israel’ which gathered about 30 caregivers. A good number of Negrenses also work in Israel.

Some time ago, in fact, an Israeli diplomat visited Dumaguete City, and expressed appreciation to Negrenses in general for “helping attend to one of the major concerns of Israel” — an aging population.

Interesting sidelight: Several years after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991, President Macapagal-Arroyo made a request to the Israeli government to give preference to victims of the eruption from (her home province) Pampanga in the hiring of their much-needed caregivers. This is the reason why more than half of the number of caregivers in Israel are Pampangueños, thanks to GMA.

So now I recall that one vote cast by Carlos P. Romulo in favor of UN Res. 181, even against his will, which brought us closer to the Israelites.

Unlike many other nationals who experience difficulty entering Israel, the entry of Filipinos to Israel only requires a visa which is given upon arrival.

In 2022, OFWs in Israel remitted a sizeable amount to their families here in the Philippines to the tune of $111 million (about P6.2 billion). In 2016, it was $134 million; and $126 million in 2017.

Come to think of it, the huge income our OFWs in Israel send back home here, added to the incomes from other Filipinos who toil hard in countries around the world — which last year amounted to an all-time high of $36.14 billion (about P2 trillion) — has helped keep our country’s fragile economy afloat.

Which side of the story are we in?


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