Not knowing the language here in Israel has its drawbacks. It is a source of amazement to me, not to mention my fellow Israelis, that after twenty-five years in the country, I continue to be, shall we euphemistically say, challenged.
I can get along in stores, supermarkets, etc. Simple conversations are also fine if grammatically imperfect. However, when some writing or deeper understanding is involved, I am often at a loss and need some help.
Thus, it wasn’t altogether surprising to discover that after having lived and worked as a teacher for sixteen years in this place, that I didn’t actually have a license. I had one in America, along with the requisite BA and MA. I had received reciprocity for the degrees and had (wrongly) assumed that I also had received reciprocity for the license. It wasn’t until I became a mentor for a younger (licensed!) teacher that it was discovered that I needed my license, as well.
Here is where Israelis are great! After being yelled at and scolded, I was told that I would be helped. I dutifully gathered all my (not quite finished) papers and shlepped into the Ministry of Education. I couldn’t go in because, according to the guard, no one had told him I had an appointment with the Manager. I called her, she called him, and he ushered me into her office.
As though conjured from the recesses of my deepest need, a former principal of mine greeted me with great happiness and asked me what I was doing there just a few days before Pesach. I told her my tale, and she laughed, and then said she would help me.
I entered the office and immediately apologized for being such a problem child. Assured that I wasn’t and that the Manager was there to help, I was given voluminous forms to fill out. Presently, the principal breezed in, declaring with gusto how wonderful I am, how I dance with the kids (excuse me, but I need my license as an English teacher, not a dance instructor), and how I was to be treated well.
“Of course! OF course! We will all help in any way we can.” And thus, she helped me with the forms, which she wound up filling out for me, as they wanted promises of everything including my first-born son whom, by this time, they were welcome to.
I actually don’t care about the license, truth be told. What I care about is keeping a job I love and to which I am well suited for the next five years or so until I can retire and continue trying in vain to master Hebrew.
Another manager was called and she arrived, stamped and accepted forms in hand, and these, too, she gave to the Manager. Everything was duplicated, faxed, filed, and handed back with a flourish. I was told that my position as an English teacher was not in jeopardy and that if anything, I would have to take some more Hebrew classes, which I am quite happy to do.
I left, with hugs, kisses, and Pesach Sameach and was told not to worry.
As I was walking toward the car, I got a call. It was the Manager.
“It’s not clear…where do you live?”
“Rehov Hermon (accent on the last syllable like, I thought, a native),” I answered.
“No, dear, you live on CHERmon. CHERmon.”
Indeed, I do.
This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, May 2, 2017, and reposted with permission.