By Nena Benigno, SeniorWriter, CBN Asia, Inc.

In a landmark agreement signed by President Rodrigo Duterte and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Sept. 3, OFWs headed for Israel will no longer pay exploitative rates of $8,000 upwards to work as caregivers, nannies or domestic helpers in the Jewish State. Henceforth, recruiting and placement will be handled directly by Israeli and Philippine governments, eliminating middlemen and private agencies and reducing the cost of traveling to and working in Israel to $2,000.

This makes life even better for Israel’s OFWs, now among the most humanely treated and highest paid in the Middle East with a minimum wage of $1,450 per month. Israel’s over 30,000 workers have been promoted to the “semi-skilled” category and are in high demand as caregivers for the elderly because of their patience, gentleness, diligence, respect for old people and “sweet and smiling disposition.”

“This Memorandum of Agreement has been eight years in the making,” describes Ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial. President Duterte’s historic trip provided the breakthrough. “When a president visits, there’s much pressure on both sides to come to an agreement”.

Filipino workers in Israel are the most coveted and beloved as caregivers for the elderly and nannies for the children.

This also happened on Israel’s 70th year anniversary. The number 70 is seen here as marking a season of liberty and new beginnings. For OFWs, it is freedom from notoriously high fees charged by private recruiting agencies. “Napakahirap ng buhay ng (bagong dating) na OFW sa Israel,” describes Myla Tangonon, six years caregiver to an elderly Jewish couple in Jerusalem. “Magbabayad ka ng P300,000 up to half a million for airfare, POEA, medical clearance, taxes, etc., at ang pinakamalaki, sa mga placement at recruitment agencies. Sweldo mo sa mga unang taon, pambayad lang sa utang. Pag nangailangan ang pamilya mo sa Pilipinas, wala kang mabigay”. With the Memorandum of Agreement for OFW’s, most of the workers’ hard-earned pay can now be spent on a better life for their families in the Philippines.

Filipino workers in Israel are the most coveted and beloved as caregivers for the elderly and nannies for the children. Prime Minister Netanyahu told President Duterte that, “There has been a remarkable phenomenon in Israel where thousands and thousands of families have taken heart from the support given by Filipino caregivers to the elderly. I am one of those families, Mr. President,” Netanyahu told President “Digong.” “My late father, who died at the age of 102, in his later years received incredible care by a caregiver from the Philippines, Lee, a woman of exceptional compassion and intelligence. She took care of my father’s every need. And when he passed away, she took care of his brother’s needs, until he passed away. I, like many, many Israeli families, am moved by this show of humanity”.

Margot Cassell Pins-Kestenbaum, 88-year old Jewish Holocaust survivor who found refuge in the Philippines at the height of Nazi dictator Hitler’s massacre of the Jews, also prefers Filipino caregivers. After Margot underwent surgery and suffered a fracture in her hip in 2016, she was cared for by a worker from an Asian country, and afterward, by another caregiver from a different Asian nation. “They were fairly efficient, they worked well enough,” Margot describes, “but emotionally there was a gap, a distance. “Finally I hired a Filipina and it was completely different. The only word I can use to describe that difference is ‘love.’ She served with love.”

We tell Margot that the love that Israelis and Filipinos have for each other comes from the same source—the God of Israel and His command to bless Israel and “comfort, comfort my (Jewish) people” in Isaiah 40:1. It also comes from Yeshua (Jesus), the Jewish Messiah’s directive to “Love one another as I have loved you.”