ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Ben Gvir, brother ordered to pay foreign caregiver NIS 100,000 in unpaid benefits

According to Haaretz, far-right politician made Sri Lankan worker sign agreement to forgo compensation after he was terminated; court rules deal not binding

Head of the Otzma Yehudit party National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Head of the Otzma Yehudit party National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and his brother Shai have been ordered by a labor court to pay some NIS 100,000 ($27,000) in unpaid benefits to a foreign caregiver who had tended to their father until his death, a report said Sunday.

According to the report by the Haaretz daily, after their father died, the brothers made the worker, Sri Lankan national Vijeta Sonimol, sign a document agreeing to forfeit his compensation after his work was terminated, in exchange for NIS 5,000 ($1,350).

Sonimol had lived with Ben Gvir’s parents and cared for his father from 2009 to 2017, including a period in which he lived at Ben Gvir’s home in the settlement of Kiryat Arba.

Sonimol claimed he was forced to sign the document and turned to the Kav LaOved workers’ rights advocacy group, which approached the Ben Gvir brothers to pay.

Ben Gvir then accused Sonimol of causing his father’s death by traveling to Sri Lanka for a family visit and demanded that he pay the family NIS 100,000 in damages, the report said, although Ben Gvir never formally sued him in court.

“We begged him dozens of times not to go, not to abandon our father,” Ben Gvir wrote in the response to Sonimol’s claims, according to Haaretz. “We explained to him that his leaving meant he was cutting his work connections.”

However, the Jerusalem Labor Court found that the Ben Gvir brothers owed Sonimol NIS 86,000 in compensation for being fired, a sum that was later increased.

The court found that while Ben Gvir did not force Sonimol to sign the resignation document, it was nevertheless not legally binding since ending his employment contract was the equivalent of being fired, not resigning.

The court noted that Ben Gvir had ultimately consented to Sonimol traveling back to Sri Lanka for a family visit.

The court also said that the brothers were obligated to pay because they inherited their father’s debt.

Last month, the court of appeals, in a final ruling, increased the amount of compensation to some NIS 100,000, Haaretz reported. The Ben Gvir brothers had already paid slightly more than half the amount and were then ordered to pay an additional NIS 40,000 to Sonimol.

“Itamar’s parents were amazing, I took care of them with devotion, and especially his father who was wonderful. We were like family,” Sonimal told Haaretz.

“I taught him how to put on a tie the first time he went to court, but he was a bad person to me, I was afraid of him,” he said of Itamar Ben Gvir.

“I lived with them at home, I looked after his children when they often went out to events,” Sonimol said.

Ben Gvir declined to respond to the report.

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