Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trials and Tribulations of a New Immigrant (Still)

Okay, fine. There are tons of reasons I could give you all, my readers (if any of you are still there), for why I have not written in months. Maybe it is that I have no wireless internet (the dark ages are hip these days) and thus I am confined to writing by the 1 meter radius my ethernet cord allows me. Or, perhaps, it is that I do not want to sound whiny, publicly that is. It could be that I fear the posts would have sounded repetitive. But, alas, here I am.

A quick update before we get to the theme of the post.

I ended up receiving an army draft. I will be enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces for six months (really, not that crazy) in October of this year. Just to give you all an idea of what a bureaucratic nightmare this process has been - I wanted this to happen LAST October. In a separate post, I'll go over my day at the Recruiting Office when I was assigned my profile grade, etc. Also, I had a great job, keyword: Had. From December 2009 until May 2010, I actually was one of the lucky few to have been employed (we'll discuss employment later on in this post). I had a friend from the U.S. come to visit me here and was thus lucky to be able to see Israel through the foreign, non-Jewish eyes. And lastly, oh yeah, there was a Turkish flotilla raid on Israel. Or was it the other way around?

But, let's discuss what makes life in Israel difficult, not speaking politically. First of all, Israel is a small country with an educated population. According to the CIA Factbook, Israel has about 7.4 million people, a 97% literacy rate and an average of 15 years of education for every male and 16 years for females. Thus, most people have at least a bachelors degree (or as Israelis call it - a First degree). As you would imagine, there is a fundamental problem here, then. If the country is so small (picture a country about the size of New Jersey), and if mostly everybody has a college degree, then how can everyone be employed in a job suitable to their level of education and preparation?

The answer is - simply they can't. Instead, the country runs on what Israelis refer to "protexia," which I believe I have discussed in a previous post. The way to get a job here is not based on one's merit, but more on who one knows. So, if you happened to have bunked in the army during basic training with someone who knows someone whose Uncle David knows his cousin's Uncle Shlomo who then had class with Uncle Itzik's then-girlfriend, Liat, who he may have gone out to coffee with at Aroma 7 years ago , right when she opened some computer programming company with her friend, Omri, then MAYBE you can get a job at said company. Whoever thought they could waltz into Israel with a B.A. from Yale and think they would be able to find a job was clearly an idealistic fool! To live in a country with no meritocracy is a complicated matter, friends.

Notice the other key phrase here: "computer programming." It becomes clearer and clearer that there is little space for someone with a liberal arts background in the Israeli employment market. Either, one is a doctor, dentist or lawyer or of some similar trait-type background, or one can program a computer. There is little room for discussion here. The computer and technology sector here is booming, but unless you can speak some bizarre computer programming language, it's hard to be a part of the excitement, mostly because it's impossible to communicate with the engineers, even in Hebrew! One can be a career military person, but let's face it, G.I. Alberto is not exactly all that catchy.

Okay, fine. I'm exaggerating. I know thousands of Israelis have jobs that involve neither law nor medicine, nor dentistry nor military nor engineering. But, I do know that I have met many people who left their comfortable lives in the U.S. or Canada or Europe in search of fulfilling their emotional goals here, only to realize to some extent there is no room for them professionally speaking. It seems that the most successful immigrants to Israel nowadays are the ones who already come when they have established themselves professionally, rather than try to build up from ground zero here.

Must it be a constant existentialist crisis - Israel or a career?

At least I know that in October, I'll have a 24/7 job. AND, I won't even have to worry about what to wear everyday. I hope I look good in green and combat boots.

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