Tag Archives: Israel

It Really Wasn’t All That Difficult

With teaching contract in hand and air tickets tucked firmly into my pocket the Schneider family made its way to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for the first time in three years and boarded a plane for Tel Aviv. We took a jitney to Jerusalem and booked a room at a local hotel until we found a place to live—the immediate task at hand.

Housing arrangements will usually be made by your hosts, as was the case in London. However, if it is left up to you how do you find accommodations in an unfamiliar city? How do you look for an apartment in a place that you have never been and in a country where you do not speak the language (Hebrew)? This is the type of agonizing question that can stop people in their tracks and keep professionals, myself included, from taking full advantage of attractive offers. During the long twenty hour flight I worried incessantly about finding a place to live. My fitful sleep was filled with visions of homeless shelters and cardboard boxes. Well let me reassure you that finding housing overseas is really not that difficult and more often than not you will find extremely pleasant accommodations.

Scuba Diving In The Red Sea Near Elath. One of the Many Wonderful Side Trips We Took While Working In Israel For Three Months

Sometimes your hosts will arrange with a local realtor to come to your hotel on the first or second day in town, drive you around, and show you what is available. If this service has not been proffered, then simply make those arrangements yourself. Send email to your host asking them to contact a local real estate agent, one fluent in English, to arrange showings on your behalf. Then send email to the agent with rental dates, desired price range, and type of unit needed–which is exactly what we did. On our second day we found a lovely, and reasonably priced, two-bedroom apartment not far from campus for exactly the dates we needed–not a coincidence since the owners were Israeli faculty making the reverse commute—traveling to the U.S. for a three-month summer working vacation.

This phenomena–believing something will be difficult, time-consuming, and stressful only to discover that it was actually quite simple, has repeated itself over and over during our travels. Those nagging doubts about being able to “pull off” this kind of working vacation usually turn out to be totally unfounded. Just as it was easy for our family to find a lovely place to live, those deep-seated fears about your house, paying bills, finding accommodations, leasing a car, or finding a school for your children often turn out to be far less onerous than imagined.

A little bit of helpful advice (such as this blog) and a good deal of common sense will usually turn what appears to be a daunting task into a simple errand. Just as my unpleasant dreams about homeless shelters turned out to be foolish and baseless, don’t let your own specious nightmares stop you from enjoying that trip of a lifetime.

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Making “Short-Term” Aliyah (Immigration) to Israel

It was fall 1982, and I was glancing through the Chronicle of Higher Education when I happened upon an article about teaching shortages at Israeli universities. All able-bodied citizens must serve in the Israeli Defense Forces for at least two years. Following active duty they enter the reserves until age fifty-one and may be called up each year for a maximum of thirty-nine days. University faculty who have completed their regular tour of duty often meet this responsibility during summer months when regular school is not in session, and the story documented the problem Israeli universities had offering summer classes since many of their staff were serving in the armed forces. The shortages were especially acute in engineering, medicine, business, and computer science (emphasis mine).

The Givat Ram Campus of Hebrew University, Jerusalem Where I Worked For Three Months

Light bulbs popped! Trumpets blared! The article may have been published in a newspaper perused by thousands, but I felt like it was speaking directly to me. Most Chronicle readers would barely notice this tiny feature story buried at the bottom of page 23, and those that did would likely not appreciate its potential for generating an all-expenses paid working vacation. That is exactly what I meant about being tuned in to the hidden travel clues lurking all around. Working vacation invitations do not announce “WE WANT YOU” in 36-point type; instead, they are often couched within stories or casual discussions that require you to uncover and reveal their underlying opportunities.

I showed the article to my wife who was ready to dig out her passport and start packing immediately. Israel was particularly attractive as a destination because of our heritage–many Jews dream of going to Israel in the same way that Irish-Americans hope to walk the emerald green sod of Eire. Teaching in Israel would give my family an opportunity to spend months learning about the country and its people rather than simply whizzing past tourist attractions for a week or two.

I emailed my resume, references, and courses I was qualified to teach to the Chair of Computer Science at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I soon received the following terse but positive response:

You are hired and will be paid $X for teaching course Y as well as $Z in
travel reimbursement. If these terms are acceptable please report to the
Computer Science office on the Givat Ram campus of Hebrew Univ. in Jerusalem
on the morning of June 5, 1983. Thank you.

So much for “I’ll meet you at the airport,” “Let me help you find a place to live,” or even “I cannot wait to meet you.” However, unknown to us at the time, Israel turned out to be a perfect second working vacation. It allowed my wife and me to develop the confidence, independence, and “street smarts” needed to handle overseas travel on our own, without the crutch of helpful and willing hosts eager to smooth over whatever bumps might occur.

We immediately began preparations for our three-month working vacation Aliyah!