Sodastream International Ltd. (Nasdaq: SODA) is offering to take on Syrian refugees at its factory near the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev. The company announced that, together with Talal Al-Krenawi, mayor of Rahat in the south of Israel, it would make an effort to offer immediate asylum to refugees from Syria, pending Israeli authorities' approval. According to the announcement, SodaStream and Rahat can effectively absorb 1,000 people, or up to 200 families, and provide them with an opportunity to build a new life in Israel.
"As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I refuse to stand by and observe this human tragedy unfold right across the border in Syria," said SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum, "Just as we have always done our best to help our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the West Bank, the time has come for local business and municipal leaders to address the Syrian humanitarian crisis and take the initiative to help those in need. We cannot expect our politicians to bear the entire burden of providing aid for the refugees." Rahat has a population of 55,000 and is the largest Bedouin town in the world. At present, 30% of the 1,100 workers in SodaStream's nearby factory are residents of Rahat.
"We enjoy a progressive, urban lifestyle in Rahat; however, we haven't abandoned our culture and our tribal traditions," said Al-Krenawi. "Human dignity and hospitality are core values in our culture and we will not allow indifference to the suffering of others. In this first stage, we will be able to receive 1,000 refugees, and then through ongoing collaboration with SodaStream, we plan to help more. Our hope is that the government will then support our joint effort."
SodaStream has for some time been under pressure from the BDS (boycott, disinvest, sanction) movement against Israel's policy on the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). The present move may be intended to improve international public opinion of the company. Birnbaum recently called the BDS movement anti-Semitic, following the transfer of its factory from Ma'aleh Adumim on the West Bank, where it employed many Palestinians, to the Negev. The move followed a BDS campaign against the company, although the latter said it was made for business reasons.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 20, 2015
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