Lack of Jobs Puts Northern Towns on Precipice of Disaster, Locals Warn

Northern communities are facing a "collapse" following a recent deterioration in employment options in their part of the country, industrialists and local politicians warned earlier this week.

According to Yona Partuk, chairman of the Histadrut Labor Fedration's Northern Galilee District, 55 percent of the residents of northern Israel earn minimum wage, just over NIS 3,600 per month.

Partuk and other speakers presented the grim statistics about the financial situation of northerners at an "emergency conference" the Histadrut convened at Hatzor Haglilit, with Shatil, a non-profit organization committed to reducing socioeconomic gaps.

"The north is in a deep depression these days," said the chairman of the workers union at Pri Hagalil, a food cannery based in Hatzor Haglilit. "People are struggling to earn enough to buy food and that is the extent of their aspirations. People are without hope."

Other data presented at the summit showed that 80 percent of the 93 local authorities in northern Israel ranked poorly (less than five on a 10 point scale) in the country's socioeconomic scale. This is a mirror image of Israel's more opulent center, where 80 percent of authorities received a grade higher than five on the same scale.

A survey commissioned by the firm Tzafona - a non profit organization focused on developing the northern part of Israel established by the Jewish Agency, Eitan Wertheimer and other donors - showed that 40 percent of about 1,400 Galileans aged 21-35 would like to leave the area for the center. By contrast, only seven percent of people from the same age group living in the center would like to leave for the north.

Zvika Fogel, head of the regional council responsible for the Bedouin village Tuba-Zangaria near Rosh Pina, says the village's residents are suffering from a high unemployment rate and low income. He says some local authorities are facing collapse as a result of the economic situation.

"We are going downhill," he said. "Should the Pri Hagalil factory close down, the town of Tuba-Zangaria would close down with it."

According to data from 2006, out of the 1.2 million residents in the Galilee area - which is divided into four municipal districts - some 53.1% were of various minorities, while only 46.9% were Jewish.

The head of Hatzor Hagliliat Regional Council, Shimon Swisa, warned, "Unless the government improves the infrastructures for transportation up north, then far-flung towns away from Tel Aviv could just disconnect from the rest of the country."