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The plant employs roughly 500 Palestinians from the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as 450 Arab Israelis and 350 Jewish Israelis. It makes gadgets for creating home-made fizzy drinks.
For many of the Palestinians, working there involves negotiating a series of complex and time-consuming checkpoints between the factory and their homes in nearby Nablus and Hebron. But the high rates of unemployment in the West Bank made it worth it, they said.
“We have no problems working here”, said one Palestinian employee, as others nodded in agreement. “The relations with the others are good, the pay is fine. But the way home is sometimes very long”.
One outside contractor who regularly visited the plant added: “It’s rare to see a company like this. Everyone sits together, works together. If you ask me, there should be a thousand SodaStreams in this area.”
Two key factors drive around 25,000 Palestinians employees to work in the settlements. The average daily wage earned by Palestinian workers in Israel and the settlements was more than double that of the West Bank private sector in 2012, according to a report by the International Labour Organisation. Unemployment rises to over 40 percent amongst 20-24 year olds in the West Bank.
Several of the SodaStream employees interviewed point to the schism between politics and their everyday lives in terms of relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
“It’s only segregated at the top level, between the Israeli and the Palestinian governments”, says an Arab cook from East Jerusalem working at the SodaStream canteen.
“The politicians, they make all kinds of a mess between Jews and Arabs. But the people here, the Palestinians and Israelis, they are working together, they talk to each other, there’s no problem. But at the political level, there are many issues.”
Update: An earlier version of this post contained a poster I created, which included the words:
“It’s rare to see a company like this. Everyone sits together, works together. If you ask me, there should be a thousand SodaStreams in this area”
– Palestinian worker at Israeli company SodaStream
Since then, it has correctly been pointed out to me that we do not know whether the man quoted was palestinian (the article just refers to him “outside contractor”). As a result, I have removed the poster.