Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Did You Say?

Communication. Essential for any healthy and productive relationship, and certainly helpful when you have moved to a new country. When I moved to Israel in 1997, I studied in Ulpan, an intensive Hebrew language course. The Israeli government paid for my tuition and gave me a small monthly stipend for the period of time in which I studied and therefore, worked less.

The teachers' strike ended only last week, after close to two months, and many university professors are still on strike. Some genius in the government has decided that in order to remedy the mess in the elementary schools, all funding for Ulpan should be frozen indefinitely. Because in the choice between Israeli-born citizens, and immigrants who have given up so much to live here, the citizens come first.

Israelis always seem to come first. As soon as I open my mouth and speak my top flight Hebrew with my natural American accent, most Israelis will try to take advantage of me. If you move to Israel as an adult male, you cannot logistically serve the same army service as a 18 year old sabra; and yet, if you apply for a job and your resume indicates that you are not a "true" Israeli soldier, you are much less likely to get the position. Even if you serve more reserve duty than many Israelis who served the full three years.

I will always have my unfortunate American accent when I speak Hebrew, but I gave up a salary four times what I make here, I gave up family and friends, because I wanted to fulfill my dream of living in the Jewish homeland and giving the best of myself to this country. I was one of the lucky immigrants, coming with solid Hebrew and a natural talent for languages. Others may not be so blessed, they may need to start at the ground floor, with the Aleph-Bet.

Israel should be encouraging new immigrants, rather than taking away their import rights, and taking away any chance of clear communication in Hebrew or integration into their new home.

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