News Leak Centre

No Fear No Favour

Sleepless in Israel, Indian nurses hang on for families.

Byline By- Balakrishna

On Tuesday evening, K Santhosh, a farmer in Kerala’s Idukki district, heard the sound of an airstrike alarm from the opposite side of a video call with his wife who was in the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Seconds after the fact, Santhosh watched in disbelief as his better half’s face vanished from the screen, and was replaced by thick smoke.

Today, the echoes of that rocket assault from Gaza, which killed 32-year-old Soumya Santhosh, keep on resonating in the homes of several nursing experts from India, who are employed as caregivers for the elderly in Israel. With Israel directing monstrous retaliatory air strikes and massing tanks along the Gaza line, they wind up in the center of a raising clash that compromises their lives — and job.

“Normally, a nurse stays in Israel for about 10 years. Most of us have huge financial liabilities. We have to clear that burden and ensure savings for the future. It’s not just Indians, there are people from the Philippines and Sri Lanka, too. Our job is tough and we have long hours of duty. However, no one wants to return empty-handed,’’ says Sajeesh Lawrence, 37, who is from Nedumkandam in Idukki.

“I haven’t rested throughout the previous four days,” says Mariya Joseph, 33, addressing via telephone Friday evening from the Israeli city of Ashdod, 38 km from Gaza.

“Yesterday night, rockets were raining in the region. Our buildings were shaking. We keep posting messages in our groups asking whether all were safe. We are trying to find comfort this way. A lot of caregivers from India, particularly from Kerala, are working in areas close to Gaza,’’ says Joseph.
According to data available till 2019 with the Indian Embassy in Israel, there are around 14,000 Indian nationals in the nation, including 13,200 employed as caregivers. What makes the job of a caregiver in Israel attractive for nurses in India is the easy migration process and attractive salary, say officials. Soumya was employed with an 80-year-old woman who was injured in the attack.

“In Kerala, nurses are not paid well. If we take a short break, we have to join again as a fresher or trainee. In such a situation, Israel offers a lifeline. We can earn a take-home salary of Rs 1 lakh-Rs 1.30 lakh a month if we are willing to work overtime,’’ says Dani Manual, 34, who hails from Mathilakam in Thrissur.

On Friday, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan tweeted that the “mortal remains of Ms Soumya Santhosh, who was killed in rocket attacks from Gaza, are being repatriated today from Israel to Kerala through Delhi. They will reach her native place tomorrow”.

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