20 minute documentary
‘Rest hour’ was filmed in August 2019. It follows the stories of three Filipino care-workers working in a care-home in north Tel Aviv. Focusing on their few allocated rest breaks, the film explores how these moments of respite function as opportunities for self-care, self-preservation and community activity. Through poems, interviews and observational shots conversations are captured highlighting complex attitudes towards Israel. The film explores conflicting questions and emotions felt by caregivers as they navigate the hardships of economic migration, family displacement and isolation. Rest hour seeks to trace collectivised and individual acts of empowerment during the day-to-day struggles of caregivers in Israel through memories, hopes and future desires.
After the First Intifada in the early 1990s, Israel rapidly decreased its dependence on Palestinian labourers. Instead, the state encouraged controlled migration from select nations to sustain its burgeoning economy from construction to domestic care work. Filipina workers were shipped in to bolster Israel’s care sector and support its older population. Subject to temporary and stringent visa conditions, these workers are widely treated as a lesser ‘threat’ to the Jewish national identity compared to their Palestinian counterparts. Approximately 31,000 documented Filipino migrants currently work in Israel. The export of Filipino labour is by no means unique to Israel. The Philippines is reliant on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) for up to 15% of its total GDP, with workers based across the Gulf States and Middle East. Around 80% of OFW’s work in the caregiving sector, assisting the elderly. Until the early 1990’s, Israel’s care sector was predominantly run by women from the former Soviet Union, yet another cheap and dispensable workforce. Filipina’s today are among the cheapest labourers in the international care sector, the vast majority are women.
The word ‘Filipina’ has become synonymous with ‘caregiver’ in colloquial Hebrew. This conflation is emblematic of the ongoing ‘othering’ and dehumanisation of the Filipino diaspora in Israel. I stress the ‘a’ in Filipina to emphasise the fact that the majority of OFW’s are women, with many under the age of thirty. Life as a Filipina caregiver in Israel is precarious and demanding. Visa contracts for OFW’s last a maximum of five years and the average monthly income is approximately 500 USD. By law, the working week is set to six days, however many caregivers report working seven days a week to support their elderly clients. Furthermore, OFW’s are prohibited from renting or buying their own property meaning they must live within their workplaces. Exploitation, blackmail and harassment are commonplace in care-homes, with clients having illegally confiscated visas and ID’s as ‘punishments’.
Apart from organisations such as KavLaoved, a workers’ hotline for migrants, there are only a handful of non-governmental organisations representing the interests of OFW’s. Without trade-union representation and with scant legal protections, migrants in Israel are routinely exploited. Filipinia caregivers are on the receiving end of family and government pressure alike. The Filipino state actively encourages workers to “stay abroad”, and carers’ families depend on their income. Many OFW’s are forced to work abroad for a minimum of thirty years in order to support families back home in the Philippines. A perverse situation has arisen whereby Filipina migrant caregivers leave their own families to support children and ageing wealthier populations across to the Middle East, Europe and North America. This is more commonly referred to as the transnational care-chain.
Directed, edited and produced: Liane Aviram
Editing Advisor: Gaya Von Schwarze
Camera: Hava Rokhlin & Liane Aviram
Sound: Nur Stadler & Daniel Mualem
Sound Design: Nevo Bar
Translation: Vincent Valiente
Voice Over: Catherine Abon