Press Release

Eli Hurvitz Conference: Day 2 Morning Sessions

The State of Israel Must Invest in Revival of the Labor Market; Displaced Communities in the North and South

Press Release Eli Hurvitz Conference: Day 2 Morning Sessions May 22, 2024, Jerusalem

The Israel Democracy Institute's (IDI) Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society opened its second day (Wednesday) with panels on the effects of the war on the Israeli labor market and on achieving economic and employment revival in the north and south of the country, which are in the periphery and deeply impacted by the war.

Highlights from the Morning

Prof. Yotam Margalit, Senior Fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute set the stage: “Since October 7, we have seen massive enlistment of reserve soldiers, evacuation of communities in the north and south, Palestinian workers who can no longer work in Israel, foreign workers who do not come to Israel due to safety concerns, and difficulties maintaining households due to a partially functioning education system and reserve soldiers being away from home.”

Matanyahu Englman, State Comptroller: To maintain Israel's technological and scientific edge in the field of artificial intelligence, which has been designated as a national priority, a long-term national strategy is required. This should include a funded operational master plan that includes goals, milestones, timelines, and performance metrics. The government's lack of action and long-term vision are causing damage to Israel's economy, which will only worsen over time. 'The day after' is already here."

Arnon Bar David, Chair of the Histadrut (General Federation of Labour in Israel): "In response to a call from the crowd for Bar David to call for elections and initiate a strike," he said,  “Recently, I’ve been hearing people who want me to declare a general strike. This concerns me. Suppose I declare a general strike tomorrow morning, for two, three days, or if I shut down the ports for a week, the airports, and the hostages aren’t returned and elections aren’t announced – nothing happens. I won’t push the Histadrut to the brink over something abstract. I am no one’s strike broker and I have been trying to navigate the Histadrut through rough seas for over a year.”

Avi Ben Assayag, CEO, Osem-Nestle Group; Chair of the Economy Committee of the Manufacturers Association of Israel: "The Israeli food industry has withstood many crises, the last one being Covid19, which it withstood well. The same cannot be said for the Swords of Iron War… At factories in the Gaza Envelope, workers from the Arab society - which make up 20 percent of our workforce - were afraid to arrive, foreign workers disappeared, and dozens of workers were injured along with their families. For the first time in history, food factories were closed and did not reopen, creating a severe shortage.” He further noted, "We must allow the import of essential personnel for the industry without bureaucratic hurdles. This is not the case today. Professional workers must be trained with full funding from the government, including stipends during their studies. We must plan the allocation of resources, and plan ahead - these things will not happen by themselves."

Daphna Aviram Nitzan, IDI Director of the Center for Governance and Economy: “The reality in Israel is unimaginable. Overnight, tens of thousands of Israelis found themselves displaced far from their homes and their jobs. Workplaces closed in the south and north, and others became irrelevant – such as in the tourism industry. The agriculture and construction sectors continue to face severe manpower shortages and employers find it difficult to cope with the existing challenges. The government did not provide a fast and efficient response and it makes life difficult for those who were evacuated to this day, as they continue to face employment challenges.”

Dr. Ahmad Bardan, Researcher, Arab Society Program, the Israel Democracy Institute: "Of course, in times of war and times of crisis, including this war, the tension [between Jews and Arabs] intensifies. We have found a way to address this, beginning with the creation of a clear code of ethics regarding disrespectful statements and a policy of zero tolerance…. Addressing problems at the organization level requires, of course, extensive representation for minority groups and the establishment of general and broad recommendations for strengthening and establishing a safe space for employees.”

Amit Yifrah, Secretary General of the Moshavim Movement; Chair of the Israel Farmers Federation: "The most severe damage to the industry was caused by the evacuation of the communities and the turning of the [farming] areas into war zones. Despite the difficult challenges that the war posed, the farmers continued to cultivate the fields. The most difficult thing was the loss of the foreign workers, about 10,000 foreign workers left the country. Also in terms of Palestinian work, bringing in workers is a very slow process. We found ourselves unable to produce food and meet the quotas, and without the mutual guarantee of the volunteers, the family farms would have collapsed a long time ago." She further noted, “What is needed in the labor market and in agriculture is a change of perception - Israeli production will help fight the cost of living, we need a new generation of farmers and to start cultivating them now."




The annual Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society—formerly the Caesarea Economic Policy Planning Forum—is widely recognized as Israel's most influential economic conference. Inaugurated in 1993 as Israel’s first major policy forum, the conference was originally conceived by Finance Minister Avraham "Beiga" Shochat and IDI founder Dr. Arye Carmon as a forum for policymakers, business leaders and academic experts to debate national policy priorities ahead of the passage of Israel’s annual budget. Each year, the Conference examines Israel's macro-economic policy and focuses on other key issues, which have included environmental policy, inequality, the war on terror, globalization, education, transparency, and local government.