(JTA) — In a first for Jordan-Israel relations, a small group of Jordanian citizens recently gained employment in Israel’s hospitality sector as part of a pilot project negotiated by the two countries.
The Washington Post reported Monday that the program, which “very quietly” launched six months ago, currently permits 700 Jordanians to cross the border to work in the Red Sea resort town Eilat. The program ultimately will allow in 1,500 Jordanians.
On the program’s first day, in November, 172 workers arrived in Eilat, according to The Tower. That day, Israeli Interior Minister Silvan Shalom greeted the new workers, saying, “This is a day of celebration for Israeli-Jordanian cooperation … that will strengthen ties between Israel and Jordan, improve service in Eilat hotels and prevent illegal migrants from working in Israel.”
Eilat’s 40 hotels employ 9,000 workers, a third of them in housekeeping, according to the Post.
Ahmed Riashi, 25, told the Post that his dishwashing job at Isrotel’s Royal Garden Hotel pays twice what he made working as a waiter in Amman, Jordan’s capital. He said the Jewish Israelis he has encountered on the job have reacted positively upon learning he was Jordanian and several asked to take selfie photos with him.
The tightly regulated program requires the Jordanian workers to return to Jordan by 8 each evening, bars them from traveling outside the Eilat city limits and restricts them to cleaning jobs.
According to the Post, the new employees are 99 percent male and, after being vetted by the Jordanian government and Israeli hotels, undergo a background check by the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency.
Because the program’s goals include ending the hotel sector’s reliance on illegal African migrant employees, hotels are required to fire an African each time they hire a Jordanian, according to the Post.
Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, becoming Israel’s second Arab neighbor after Egypt to establish full diplomatic relations.