Arab students 300.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After volunteering as an English teacher in various schools for several months I
was hired by a Druse school and a school in the Arab sector. The staff and
children were welcoming to the point that I felt like a rock star most
Teaching English to such eager students, surrounded by mostly
supportive staff should be pure joy. Unfortunately, month after month there was
no sign of pay – instead more and more random paperwork was thrown at me by the
schools and Education Ministry while I was patronizingly told to be patient. It
was not until I started a mandatory six-month college course (about teaching
English in Israel), where I met fellow (Anglo and Russian) English teachers that
I realized we were all in the same sinking boat with no life jackets or
One highly qualified and dedicated teacher’s creative
response, after six months and no pay, was to politely tell the principal that
he was leaving his teaching post, until he was paid. The principal surprisingly
supported this move and even helped write the necessary Hebrew paperwork to the
ministry treasurer and the school inspector.
Apparently the telephone is
seldom answered at the ministry, so a call is not an option and someone must
walk the paperwork over to the official, or it will be “lost.” The teacher was
called back to work the next day and apparently paid his late salary
immediately. The damage had been done, however, and one of the few male English
teachers (who incidentally speaks fluent Hebrew) may yet leave the
Frustrating beyond belief is that nothing is negotiated and no
protection is provided by the “must join” paid unions (staffed by Hebrew
speakers who obviously cannot help English speakers navigate a complicated
mess). However, if you try to resign in discontent this may be fiercely
contested by the school principal and you may be told that there is a binding
contract (even if you have not received one shekel in pay).
In fact, no
contract is ever signed – at least not with olim teachers. We must work at least
10 hours a week at a school for three years to have any sort of tenure there.
Pay is shockingly low (NIS 35 an hour is the flat rate). There is no functional
English- speaking recourse to solve our many problems.
Forms and forums
are all in Hebrew only.
It seems likely that any new teacher, in any
subject, will be treated this way as the system is fundamentally broken, but
they can also hopefully fend for themselves in Hebrew or Arabic. Ironically,
Israelis young and old most (desperately) want and need to learn from English
native speakers – so much so that I am starting an English conversation
EXCELLENT ENGLISH teachers fall through the cracks from sheer
exhaustion after grappling with this system, and the problem is decades old,
according to senior and retired English teachers.
Schools and the
ministry blame each other for the current state of affairs; I have only
experienced a similar level of chaos in third world countries limping along on
If you are determined to teach English in Israel,
be aware that there are mysterious pitfalls built in to the system that you will
need to navigate on your own, in Hebrew, and even having done that you may
simply not be paid, so plan on being self-sufficient for at least one
Prospective English teachers must first submit all their degrees
and relevant work experience for evaluation, be interviewed (and insulted) by
multiple ministry officials, attend a mandatory sixmonth college program about
teaching English in Israel (only about 30 percent of this course is useful to
native English speakers, however the Russian speakers in the north do enjoy
receiving lectures from English speakers), then a literature course, then a
course entirely in Hebrew (while many of us are still attending Ulpan 101) – in
order to become certified to teach English in Israel (even if we are highly
certified in other countries or have academic-level English). And then begins
the hunt for a school that will even interview English teachers who are not yet
fluent in Hebrew.
To date I have received back pay, and correctly
adjusted pay, from the Arab-sector school, but the Druze-sector school
conveniently “ran out of Council funding” so although ministry (reluctantly and
rudely) paid its half of my matching salary, the Druse school will not pay me.
This in spite of stellar job performance, confirmed by the principal, students
and fellow teachers alike.
The inspector supported the decision: Game
Over. Go home. Shut up. The ministry official (assigned to help olim English
teachers) laughed and then argued vehemently with me against my rights. Another
ministry official, addressing the English-speaking college class (in Hebrew
only) made it quite clear that if teachers fought (legally) the existing system
of no pay, late pay, incorrect pay – they would simply never teach
I am not sure how long my fellow teachers will fight the system,
but I have recently made the decision to keep my sanity and dignity by teaching
at the Arab school where I was warmly welcomed, (eventually) paid and where the
principal actually demands that English be taught in English! I have stopped
volunteering (mainly to demonstrate my ability at schools), as it is too easy
for both the schools and ministry to gang up later and claim you were never
hired, but volunteered all along. To supplement low school-generated income I
tutor individuals at the going rate of NIS 100 for 45 minutes.
teacher-anthropologist, who is also trying to survive and contribute to Israel
through teaching English, recently gave me a book to read (The Bookseller of
Kabul, by Asne Seierstad) because there is a chapter at the end about education
in Afghanistan. This describes a nightmarish Education Ministry with problems
mirroring those in Israel. How, and more importantly why, is it possible for
Israel to mimic a devastatingly poor, war-ravaged and exceptionally troubled
country’s failing education system? The writer is a new immigrant who has been
living in Nahariya for approximately six months.