Delegation to Israel and Palestine
Sunday 18 October – Saturday 24 October 2015
Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI) Report
This year TUFI took its second delegation of 2015 to Israel and Palestine, with Community Union, the Prison Officer trade union as well as colleagues from Australia. The delegation included:
Monday 19 October
Histadrut Jewish-Arab Institute, Beit Berl
For our first day, we travelled north to visit the Histadrut Jewish-Arab Institute in Beit Berl. The Director of the Institute, Farok Amror, spoke about their work promoting co-existence between Jewish and Arab citizens within Israel. This included projects to integrate women into the workforce, and international sports tournaments that bring Israelis and Palestinians together alongside teams from across the globe.
Our colleagues from the POA made a visit to Hadrim Prison and were taken on a tour by their colleagues in the Israeli prison service.
The TUFI 2015 Delegation at TEVA Pharmaceuticals
Teva Pharmaceutical factory
The delegation then drove the short distance to Kafa Sava and to the headquarters of TEVA pharmaceuticals, one of the world’s largest pharmaceuticals companies.
We met with shop stewards, leaders of the workers committee and TUFI friend, Hertzl Yaka, Chairman of the Food and Pharmaceutical Union. TEVA had recently announced redundancies and the union were involved in negotiating a way of mitigating this.
The union concluded pay negotiations to secure a pay rise of 5.4% per year over the next five years, and secured an increase to pension contributions to 9% of pay and medical insurance cover.
Later that evening we had a dinner hosted by the public service union, UCAPSE.
Tuesday 20 October
The second day began in a beautiful October Jerusalem with a busy day of touring and briefings in one of the most historical cities in the world. The city has a special place for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike and those with an appetite for history.
The delegation drove through east of the city, up to the magnificent views from the Mount of Olives looking over the Old City. The tour took the delegation through the Old City to visit the Jewish, Arab, Armenian and Christian Quarters that included stops at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall.
Owing to the security situation, the delegation took some time to visit Ein Karem, the birthplace of John the Baptist. Lots of pilgrims take time to visit this beautiful village, and its historic sites and holy places.
A quick lunch in beautiful sunshine and then a meeting with the Jerusalem Municipality Union Employees’ Committee at the City Hall, Jerusalem. The Committee has representatives from different communities in Jerusalem: Arab, Christian, Jews and secular, who all work for the Municipality.
The delegation heard from the representatives about how they work together, despite their differences. On the question of the boycott of Israel, the consensus was that it would be the innocent workers (both Arab and Jews) that would suffer most from a boycott and there should be other avenues pursued to develop peace in the region, starting with talks.
TUFI have offered to host the committee in the UK and they will be visiting in 2016.
The delegation travelled to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Jerusalem. This is a significant point in the delegation, where the full scale of the ‘Shoah’ has been recorded with an extensive exhibition. The museum, recently rebuilt, was established in 1953, and now hosts over a million visitors a year.
From the feedback forms several of the delegates were very much affected by what they had witnessed at Yad Vashem. This played a part in developing a stronger understanding about the case for Israel and Jewish self determination, with secure borders
Dinner in the evening and we were hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Government’s position on affairs.
The view from Yad Vashem
Wednesday 21 October
The day started with a briefing from the IDF’s spokesperson, Lt. Peter Lerner at the HQ in Tel Aviv. Lt. Lerner spoke about the IDF’s actions and responsibilities. He was keen to take questions on all the difficult issues.
Next up we drove to Jerusalem to visit construction workers working on a large, union organised site. The workers were from Israel and the Palestinian territories and we spoke about the terms and conditions, site safety and union membership. This was a very informative session for the delegation who had some tough questions for the management.
Meeting with David Quarrey, British Ambassador the Israel
The joint delegation visited the newly appointed UK Ambassador to Israel, HE David Quarrey.
He spoke about the British Government’s position on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the work they do to get a talks process going.
With construction workers in Jerusalem
Later in the evening we had our farewell dinner, where all the delegates spoke about their experiences and thoughts of the trip. They said that they would report back to their Union’s executives and thanked TUFI for organising the delegation and for giving them the chance to participate.
Thursday 22 October
Sderot, Kibbutz Nir Am and Mekorot
The delegation drove south to the town of Sderot and to Kibbutz Nir Am on the border with Gaza. The working class development town has been the target of thousands of rocket attacks over the past decade. The Kibbutz had been on the frontline on the recent conflict with Gaza and we were shown a tunnel entrance where there was an attempted attack on the Kibbutz.
Trade union representatives from the water company Mekorot, talked to the delegation about the efforts they have gone to, to provide water to Gaza, despite being attacked themselves, while working on damaged water pipes.
The delegation was given a briefing into the life that residents of Sderot have had to endure and the precautions they take such as bunkers and concrete shelters on schools. We were later shown a vista of the proximity with Gaza and gained an understanding of the relatively short distances that the rockets travel.
TUFI 2015 Delegation with the Mekorot company workers in Sderot
Hilik Bar MK
The delegation had an important meeting with Labor MK, Hilik Bar who met everyone at the Labour Party’s HQ in Tel Aviv. He spoke with passion about the Labor Party’s commitment to restart the peace process and to improve the lives of struggling Israelis with their own cost of living crisis.
He Chairs the Two-State caucus in the Knesset and is still keeping at the forefront the two-state solution as the only solution to ending the year’s long conflict.
“The visit overall was absolutely terrific- the visits were interesting, the hospitality was wonderful, and the experience of the culture was a delight. It’s a trip I won’t forget.”
Jackie Marshal, POA
“I went out to Israel with some scepticism about Israeli policy, especially towards the Palestinians. Although there are aspects of Israeli policy that I’m critical of I also gained an understanding into the complexity of the regions affairs and fully understand Israel’s position. I would highly recommend any trade unionist to go on this trip”
John Tetsill, Community Union Executive
TUFI would like to thank the Histadrut, their Director of the International Department Avital Shapira-Shabirow and International Officer Hila Karmi for co-ordinating the delegation; and all the unions for their hospitality.
TUFI takes British trade union delegations to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories to gain a first-hand understanding of the region and help develop stronger bonds between British, Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists.
Telephone: 020 7222 4323
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