Wednesday, March 23, 2011

turning in a world of risk

Where can I even begin after so much silence?

How about the moment I entered the teacher’s room after being observed by the BIG SHOT- the woman who oversees all English teachers in Jerusalem for the Ministry of Education. This woman is key in getting jobs, and actually, after over a year and a half of hoop jumping, finally becoming certified to teach in Israel. My department head ran over to me, ecstatic. The BIG SHOT had told her what she had told me right after the observation, that I was one of the best teachers she’s ever seen. (Please keep in mind she’s seen every English teacher in Jerusalem.) I look over, distracted, at another teacher on the phone, her eyes moist, her hand covering her mouth. Disjointed phrases in Hebrew flash around the busy room. On a bus. Right outside of the Bineney Ha’uma. Which bus was it? There’s been a terrorist attack. 18 wounded. Was it a bus our students take? The three computers in the room are occupied, people desperately searching for confirmation and more information. Phones are pressed to ears, so much that the network is overloaded; calls fail.

My department head is still bubbly about my recent success and asks me if I’ve filled out my wish list for next year yet. This is the first mention I’ve heard of being offered a job for next year. I never even signed a contract for this year and am still fighting to get paid what I should, to increase my pitifully sad 10 shekel an hour average rate. I’m still walking around the large room slightly dazed, wondering if I’m standing at the entrance of a third intifada. My memories jump back two weeks to the shocking ending to the wonderful Shabbat I spent with the family who has adopted me here. Rebooting computers with cheerful faces only to discover that just north of here a family was slaughtered in their sleep. I log into gmail and quickly find myself chatting with 6 friends all at once, everyone checking in, still alive. For first timers, it’s almost instinct; for those who have lived through so many attacks, it’s routine.

I hold the “wish list” form in my hand after my department head printed me out a copy. I don’t want this, but I’m not sure how or when to tell her that I’m not coming back. I’ve been told time and time again that this school, where I drag myself everyday, is a good school; that this place, that I regard as an unruly mess, is a great place to work; that these students, who argue and fight with me on a regular basis, robbing themselves of learning, are some of the best students. And all this for less than 2 dollars an hour. All this for less than minimum wage. I tuck the form into my bag and wonder if I should take the bus home.

Risk. For a world ever seeking stability and security, risk permeates the air. To stand surrounded by countries of oppressed people challenging dictators so often given a green light by oil thirsty Western countries. Risk, to leave a “secure” although pitiful government job with a pension to start out on my own. Risk, to live in what very much feels like the middle of a region in riots, in a country hit by rockets on a regular basis.

But is it risky simply because it’s unknown to me? what about my normal risks, that seem bland in comparision. The financial markets we’ve be taught to believe in seem so fragile. People risk their lives daily in American too- due to street violence, car accidents- and as much as American would like to believe itself immune, terrorist attacks happen there as well. But only terrorist attacks make international news. Are we blinded to the risks we’ve become accustomed to?

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