Monday, December 10, 2007

Despite one job offer that seemed to be perfect and final, and another that slipped through my fingers while I was under that first impression, I am still unemployed. There is no dearth of jobs here in Israel, at least for someone with my skill-set (weak but good enough for entry level). However, my unpliant requirements have knocked down most of my opportunities.

Despite my own personal boredom at having nothing to do, all my friends and family want to know what it is I am doing. Yes, indeed I am here and that is exciting, and it must seem really extreme to those of you reading in Virginia... but I assure you I am doing just about the same thing each day as I did each day of the previous summer. That is, I watch a lot of t.v., movies, and I have been reading books nonstop. I suppose it's a nice thing to have time to read, but it's a bit nicer to have a paycheck, in order to be able to buy the books to read. I'm having a great time, hanging out with friends, reading and writing at leisure, but each day I scour the job listings. It's either secretarial work or sales. There are plenty of freelance writing gigs, but I do not have the required government account for freelancing -- something I've heard is a royal pain to establish. You may not believe it, but job security is much more tangible than personal security, even in the heart of the Middle East.

With nothing to do, I have been out and about exploring my new neighborhood. I live in Tzomet Pat, or Katamonim, which is well known throughout Jerusalem (and maybe through Israel in general, I don't know). Unfortunately, it is well known as the 'ghetto.' Not that it is like Compton or Harlem, as a drug and gang infested area, but it is an area where many poor Jerusalemites live. The stratification of Israeli society is essentially this, from highest to lowest: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Russians, Ethiopians. What that means is that the Ashkenazi Jews, the old world Europeans, that came over in the first big waves of immigration, naturally became the most landed of citizens. The Sephardis came over next, and established themselves. The Russians came over around the same time as the Ethiopians, from the mid-80s until today. The Russians have certainly had a rough go, but they aren't nearly as bad-off as the Ethiopians.

Despite the Ethiopians having been in this country, generally, for almost two decades, they have faced no small amount of discrimination. Just recently some reports came out about this problem, and like a good politician on his deathbed, Prime Minister Olmert quickly said "I will fight the discrimination against Ethiopians." This lip service has of course done nothing to ease the station of these second class citizens, and they continue to find themselves herded by economic and social pressures into neighborhoods like Katamonim. And they find me waiting for them, soaking up the cheap prices in this non-Western area of Jerusalem.

But honestly, Katamonim really isn't that bad. I've been to Harlem; Harlem is scary, Katamonim is not. I spend my days at the numerous parks we have here, running on the soccer field, or shooting hoops on one of the many basketball courts, and lounging about on the softest grass I've found in Israel (for some reason, it tends to be sharp and spikey). I don't know what all the fuss is about, at least in terms of the overall exterior health of the area. There is a bit of trash on the streets, but that isn't so rare in Israel, and definitely not rare in cities across the world. But, the reason that Katamonim isn't that bad, despite being a poor area inhabited by a disaffected minority, is because the Ethiopians are such wonderful people.

I have a great affinity for Ethiopians. Many of them are very religious, especially those in Jerusalem. They keep traditional Jewish houses, 'orthodox laws' if you will, and are so good natured in comparison to the common Israeli. In my opinion, Ethiopians are much more like southern Americans than any other group of people I've met from around the world (and you meet many different nationalities here). In short, Southerners are quiet, they smile and have manners. Ethiopians are quiet, they smile and have manners. The Ethiopians that came over from Ethiopia itself are, hands down, my favorite sector of Israeli society. Unfortunately, the Ethiopians being born here, those under the age of 20, are just as obnoxious and rude as the rest of the teenage punks.

So, I spend my days out walking the streets, frequenting the park, and mingling amongst my favorite Israelis.

I'll write another post this week on a trivial experience, and a very serious experience, with the Ethiopians.

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