Illegal Palestinian workers hide out in Israel, staying longer as trip home gets tougher

Illegal Palestinian workers hide out in Israel, staying longer as trip home gets tougher

Imagine doing this in your own backyard…having to crawl around like criminals when you actually own the land.

Two Palestinian men crawl through an opening not much larger than a shoe box and descend a shaky ladder, into a space filled with the rank smell of urine and cigarette smoke.

This underground, unfinished mall near the junction of two Tel Aviv highways is home for dozens of Palestinian laborers who can’t get scarce work permits. It’s where they disappear each night, living out of sight of Israeli authorities to fill jobs offered by Israeli businesses.

“When you want to work, you are not afraid of anything,” said 23-year-old Abdul Jalil Hamad, who lights a candle on a concrete wall to shed light on his bed, a mattress that he found in the garbage.

To avoid discovery by police, Hamad and his friends send only those with the best Hebrew and cleanest clothes to buy food at a minimarket on a back street. When the police catch him, he returns home to the West Bank with empty pockets, to face 14 family members who rely on his pay.

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