"A Childhood Denied" highlights the phenomenon of Palestinian children working in Israeli agricultural settlements in the Jordan Valley. These children work under harsh conditions and are paid about 50-75 NIS per day—approximately one third the Israeli minimum wage—even though they are entitled to the full minimum wage under an Israeli court order. Child laborers typically work from six in the morning until two in the afternoon, tending to agricultural fields with no health benefits, pensions, or sick days, and forced to endure temperatures reaching over 50 degrees Celsius in the summer.
Through intensive research, MA'AN Development Center has discovered that many hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinian children work in Jordan Valley agricultural settlements. MA'AN interviewed child laborers as young as 12 years old. These children, like the adults who also work in the settlements, are paid a pittance with no social safety nets if they are injured in these dangerous working conditions. Most of the children working in these settlements originate from communities in the Jordan Valley, but many come from elsewhere in the West Bank, such as the South Hebron Hills, and have experienced forced transfer carried out by the Israeli army in recent years. This along with the exposure of children to tough manual labor are clear violations of international law.
There are a number of factors driving Palestinian children to work in Israeli agricultural settlements. Some come from families that lack a primary breadwinner and so they view this as a duty to their families. Others have siblings in university and their parents do not make enough money to sustain the family. In some cases, children see their fathers working in settlements and, given the neglected nature of their schools and lack of alternative options, resign themselves to a life working in a settlement. Whatever the reason, urgent attention is required to stop this trend that denies young Palestinians their right to a childhood and to a future free of exploitation.