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Stacey Joffe chews on the end of her pen as she studies the notice stuck to the wall that reads "Looking for English speakers for telephone sales."
With a hopeful grin, the 21-year-old former South African heads into the office to discuss the job with an international removals company.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan-born Daniel Horowitz, 34, goes from office to office, looking for work in computers. Most of the jobs advertised on the walls are not in his field, but he remains optimistic as he checks out each option.
"Even if I don't find work now, something I have learned here is that you have to speak with people to start making connections," he says.
Joffe and Horowitz were two of the 150-plus job seekers at a recent job fair in Kfar Saba organized by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption's employment department.
Fragments of English, Spanish, French and Russian wafted through the air as job seekers registered their names at the ministry's employment center. They then went from room to room, where 15 employers had set up offices, each with a notice posted on the wall stating what sort of jobs they were offering.
The potential employers ranged from a tertiary college and a telemarketing company to a catering firm and an ink-recycling plant; but the types of jobs they were offering were mostly in sales or blue-collar roles such as warehouse workers, drivers or cashiers.
Nitza Friedman, head of the department's central region, says that although the ministry has conducted job fairs for new immigrants regularly for several years, this was the first time it had brought employers in directly, enabling them to meet potential employees on the spot. This was the first time such job fairs were being held at the ministry's employment centers rather than at a fairground.
"We think having the fair here is much more effective," Friedman says.
The ministry's six employment centers - in Kfar Saba, Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and Beersheba - have existed for six years and were designed to help immigrants find work in or related to their chosen professions. All six centers held job fairs in the first two weeks of March.
The centers provide individual job-hunting assistance, bridging courses, professional Hebrew courses, lectures and workshops on employment in Israel. The free services are available to immigrants who have been in Israel for fewer than 10 years (15 years for Ethiopians).
According to Arik Meir, project manager at the employment centers, some 600 immigrants were registered at the Kfar Saba center in 2005, with a success rate of 80% - defined as finding employment in or in a field related to their profession. The Tel Aviv center had 800 people registered in 2005, with a 75% success rate. Most of the jobs were in the service industries, commerce and computers.
It is worth noting that the employment centers are not for licensed professions, such as medicine, dentistry, law or teaching.
Friedman was pleased with the turnout in Kfar Saba but says it is too early to tell how many employers and employees have made successful matches.
Meanwhile, Joffe emerged from her interview with the removals company and joined the line to see another potential employer. Originally from Johannesburg, she has been in Israel for five years, having made aliya as a 16-year-old through the Na'aleh program, which brings 11th and 12th graders to the country with the aim of encouraging their parents to follow. Joffe and her Na'aleh friends live on Kibbutz Tzora, near Beit Shemesh. She recently completed her army service and is now looking for work - any work.
"I have worked in kitchens and warehouses for the past four years (at home on the kibbutz and in the army), so a sales job would be a breeze. In fact, anything in an office would be good," she says.
Horowitz is more particular. As a qualified software engineer who worked as a webmaster and computer teacher at a Jewish school in his native Caracas, he would prefer to stick to his chosen field.
"I am looking for something related to computers and the Internet," he says. "But I also taught genealogy and sent work to Beit Hatefusot [the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv University's campus] which won prizes, so something in that field would be good too."
Horowitz and his wife, Debbie, immigrated to Israel nine months ago with their three-year-old son and still live at Ra'anana's absorption center. They were familiar with the Kfar Saba employment center before this month's job fair, as they have been attending professional workshops and Hebrew courses there.
"They are teaching us how looking for a job here is different from looking for a job in other countries," says Horowitz. "The mentality is different. Here, if you ask at the first interview how much you are going to earn, it's very bad; but in the US, it's okay to ask."
Debbie, meanwhile, returns from checking out a couple of sales jobs. She hasn't found anything of interest but remains enthusiastic.
"We love it here in Israel and want to raise our family here," she says. "Finding a job is difficult, but we know we have to be patient. I'm sure we will find work eventually. It's all about networking."
Standing quietly watching the crowd are Richard Dunhoff, 53, and his wife Dalia, 45. The Pittsburgh couple are in Israel for a two-week pilot visit prior to their planned aliya this summer. Dunhoff, who runs a furniture business in Latrobe, south of Pittsburgh, is eager to see what his job options are.
"My biggest problem is that my Hebrew's deficient," he says. "I could try telemarketing, at least initially. I'm not sure I would want to get back into business here - it's a big risk of capital, and I don't have the language to run a business in Israel."
Dunhoff has been to Israel many times and wants to move here, as does his Israeli-born wife and their eldest daughter, a 20-year-old student at the University of Pittsburgh. He says his 18-year-old son "blows hot and cold" about the idea, especially as he would be faced with army service, while their two youngest daughters, 12 and 10, are excited and nervous about the prospect.
"I came here today just to meet employers," says Dunhoff. "I don't know yet what I want to do here, but I know I want to do something."
Immigrant Absorption Ministry employment centers can be found in Ashdod (08) 852-4015; Beersheba (08) 627-2019); Jerusalem (02) 537-1186; Tel Aviv (03) 562-1615; Kfar Saba (09) 748-2324); and Haifa (04) 872-3802/4.
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