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IDT Global Services, which operates call centers around the country and is possibly the country's largest employer of native English speakers, has begun to downsize in a move that has so far eliminated dozens of positions.

The downsizing, which began Monday, is the result of financial difficulties that have plagued its parent company, the New Jersey-based IDT Corporation, in recent months, sources say.

"It is not surprising that a company that has undergone a change in ownership or a restructuring has deemed it appropriate to fire employees," said Yaron Oz, IDT vice president of operations.

He would not elaborate. Sources say the number of eliminated positions in recent days has topped 150, but this number could not be confirmed.

Based in Jerusalem, IDT Global Services has call centers in Tel Aviv and Be'er Sheva and has been a popular way station for many Anglo immigrants as they ease into the Israeli workforce.

Non-Hebrew speakers

A significant number of the company's estimated 850 employees do not speak Hebrew and so people familiar with the situation fear they will have an especially difficult time finding alternative employment.

Company sources say that the layoffs have mostly hit employees in the administrative departments and senior positions, though all departments seem to be affected by the large-scale cutbacks.

"People are worried and very unsure about the future of the company - and understandably so," said one employee, who asked to go unnamed. "I imagine this is what it was like at Enron during its last few days."

The company had advertised a number of positions in recent weeks, and so the wave of cutbacks caught some of the staff by surprise. The cost of a IDT Corporation share, which is traded on New York Stock Exchange, has plummeted in recent years, from nearly $22 in December 2003, to just under $4 now. Its value has dropped 53 percent since the beginning of the year.