Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Country that Eats its People (Part 6)

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This story is about an American family

that made Aliyah

Arrived 1987 - Departed 1989



Financial aid is the most important to get right. Some choose not to work and are instructed how to accomplish that through Israel's fuzzy socialistic system. They can secure unending hand-outs. True it supplies the meagerist of life styles, but there are plenty of ways to supplement that condition, with under the table methods. For those not wishing to live in this style, jobs are quickly found for them, supplying sufficient income for a comfortable life style. This aid is said to be available for all at the Merkaz. If only that were true.

Where do you think most find help? From their supportive organizations of course. Americans not being as fortunate, constantly shoulder a burden of one unsolved situation piled upon another. Transition from the Merkaz to the outside world, is further enhanced for most Olim, by the entire process being discussed in their mother tongue. This is invaluable when no one has not yet become proficient in Hebrew.

Americans on the other hand are laboriously prying bits of information from surly caretakers, that speak rock Ivrit (only Hebrew), or inadequate English at best. It takes (according to consensus), three years to master the language well enough so that important nuances can be understood. Why won't they or why can't "they speak English" when English is a mandatory language in all Israeli schools.

There is an easy way to remedy the problem. Hire Americans fluent in Hebrew. Many would jump at the opportunity. Many have applied for such work. I never saw one employed. Why?


Into the fourth month at the Merkaz, pandemonium still thrives. Conflicts grow more intense. Americans keep leaving, returning to the U.S.. For those remaining the system nibbles away at our resolve day after day, but somehow we fight on. Not everyone could maintain the stamina to forge ahead.

Looking back I am tempted to characterize the word stamina as stupidity. Incorporating resolve, stamina and whatever else available to hype myself, I arrange numerous appointments for job interviews. This was no easy task, by now you must realize nothing is. There has been no thought to equip the Merkaz with a system that enables communications needed for a job search. You may seethe all you want over this absence of an obvious need, but only you, will become aggravated.

There are no telephones allowed in the rooms although the connections are there. You must use the one and only public phone in the lobby, to make appointments and receive incoming calls. After waiting in line for half an hour or so, when your turn comes the phone has usually stopped working. More than once I have seen frustrated individuals tear the instrument from the wall. Getting the picture of job hunting?

Eventually I am told the front desk will take calls, write messages, and place them in your mail box. After receiving those garbled notes written in Hebrew, most deposited in your box a week after being received, you chalk that service up to another failed fantasy. Imagine, no help from your job councilor, no provisions to support your own attempts to find work. This is one kettle of fish you are bound to choke on.

Somehow I kept going and managed to arrange a day of meetings in Tel Aviv. It was exciting to have actually gotten this far, even if what should have been a weeks work took two months. With my rudimentary Hebrew learned on the street (not Ulpan), a pocket full of maps and travel instructions, I departed Karmiel for my first view of Tel Aviv.

Sitting at the back of the bus as I watched Karmiel recede into the distance, tension disappeared and I was in the best of spirits. Having grown up in New York, arriving in the big city was like old home week. It was teeming with activity, and I loved it. There was no end to the shops offering every conceivable item you might want. When I needed directions, and my attempts at using Hebrew failed, they switched to English effortlessly.

Every appointment was kept and the interviews couldn’t have gone better. Imagine interviews being pleasurable, never any tension and most important conducted in English. To be polite and demonstrate my desire to learn the mother tongue, I did manage a coherent sentence or two, and the effort was well received. The day was so enjoyable that not until it was coming to an end, did it dawn on me that the propaganda of the Merkaz Klita (the immediate necessity to learn Hebrew) was just that.

They were driving us crazy, insisting we learn Hebrew (which they didn't know how to teach), and yet I had spent a very important day speaking only English. It doesn't compute now, but it will later on.


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