The human face of job seekers at the unemployment office

There are real people behind the staggering numbers.

jerusalem unemployment line 88 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
jerusalem unemployment line 88 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The unemployment office in Jerusalem's central bus station was more crowded than usual on Tuesday afternoon. One staffer, who helps residents find and keep jobs, said she noticed the difference. "There has definitely been a rise in ordinary people seeking work here," she said, "And this is just in one city." Seeing the faces behind the unemployment crisis is a reminder that there are real people behind the staggering numbers. Ofer, a Jerusalemite, worked for a telemarketing company before being laid off in April. "I had lots of temporary jobs after that," he said, "but none of them lasted long." This was not Ofer's first visit to the unemployment office and he worried it wouldn't be his last. "I may end up working as a census-taker again, but it's not for sure," he said. Rivka, on the other hand, wasn't used to being jobless. Cracking her knuckles and keeping her eyes glued to the floor, she said hesitantly, "I've never had to look for work so... desperately." Before being fired, Rivka taught literacy at a college in Tel Aviv. "It hurts your dignity" to ask for help, she said. "I feel sort of helpless." Another unemployed teacher, Galit, has been coming to the job office for three years. "Lately it's been very difficult," she sighed. "I'm tired of the backand-forth; today there's a job - tomorrow, nothing." Also looking for work was a young optimistic Chabadnik who wished to remain anonymous. On the issue of unemployment he said, "It's about how you look at it. You may not get to do art or something creative but that doesn't make it bad." When asked what sort of work he was looking for, he simply said that he'd do "whatever Hashem decides. I'm just searching for His mission." Yonatan, who previously worked in customer service, was just as hopeful. "I don't have much protekzia [connections] or many contacts," he began, "but there is some work in business for me, I'm sure." One person waiting in line, who also wished to remain anonymous, had worked with computers. "I went to Chicago as a freelance worker for a hitech company just two months ago," he said, "but I'm back in Israel already. They have as many problems in the US as they do here!" Despite their troubles, most people were in good spirits as they waited to be assisted. Some joked that they should just move to Australia. Others kept quiet, ruminating over the potential obstacles in their futures. But they were all driven to seek help here, hoping to finally leave the ranks of the unemployed.