Saturday, May 11, 2013

Huge Sigh of Relief

Shalom, chaverim! Well, I'm happy to tell you that the big change I alluded to in my last post is actually NOT going to take place after all. But since I didn't tell you outright what that change was going to be, I'll tell you now. It's hard keeping a secret!


As you may recall, Elul took a job in Kiryat Tivon, which is roughly 32 miles southeast of Nahariya. He started at the end of February, and has been commuting five days a week, Sunday through Thursday. The problem was, his working hours were 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., which meant he had to travel at peak rush hour time each way. Additionally, there were a number of huge traffic bottlenecks along the way. Some of these had to do with poor planning (ill-timed lights, inadequate lane distribution), and others were due to ongoing construction to expand roads and, in some areas, the construction of new roads altogether. Additionally, there is a high incidence of our fellow Israelis being just plain old dumb-a**es on the road: stopping to talk to motorists going the other way, trying to change lanes at the last minute and forcing everyone behind them to stop, pulling onto the shoulder to make a call but not pulling over enough to allow traffic to pass, etc. In short, it all meant that another two to three hours a day was added to Elul's day, turning a 45 hour work week into a 55-60 hour one. It was making him crazy, stressed, tired, and cranky. This, to put it mildly, was adversely affecting our quality of married life.

Whither the Olim Chadashim?

After a couple of months of this, we began to seriously talk about moving to Tivon. Eventually, we decided to do it, which meant I had to start looking for work in a new town.This was not as easy a process as it sounds. Ultimately, I had interviews at two different schools in the area. I taught a demonstration lesson at one, which was followed up with a second interview and a request to teach another demonstration lesson for another grade. Both schools seemed very nice and good places to work, with a lot of potential for professional advancement and a great place to learn.

This was an awkward and difficult time for me, as I was still working for my schools in Nahariya and Yrka. At this time of year, school administrators are already beginning to plan for the upcoming school year, and need to get their staffing situation finalized so they know what, if any, teacher vacancies they need to fill. Early in this process, I was asked by the English coordinator at one of my schools, point-blank, if I intended to continue to work at the school next year. I was not ready for this question, as I didn't want to give an answer before I had something definitive lined up in Tivon. Rentals are more expensive in Tivon, and frankly, if I didn't have enough teaching hours lined up there, we wouldn't be able to afford to live there.

I was caught off-guard by her question and asked to speak to her outside the staffroom. I took a deep breath and told her what was going on. She understood completely, and even graciously thanked me for my honesty. She agreed to let me stall for a little bit, and in turn I promised to let her keep her posted as to what was going on. I'd been told by one of the schools I interviewed at that I would get an answer "very shortly." However, that has not been the case, and now, more than three weeks after that initial interview, I still have yet to be told one way or the other.

In addition to all the job-hunting gymnastics I was going through, we were also taking several trips to Tivon and various communities in the area to look at neighborhoods, housing prices, locations, and so on. Initially I had insisted that if we were to move, I would only agree to move to another seaside community, as I love the sea so much. However, those areas, collectively known as "The Krayot," (i.e. the plural for towns that start with "Kiryat," such as Kiryat Motzkin, Kiryat Chaim, Kiryat Yam, Kiryat Biyalik, etc.) pretty much suck in the areas that have affordable rents, and the nicer sections were too expensive for us. So then we shifted our search to look inland, such as in Tivon itself, and other places like Kiryat Atta, Afula, Nofit, and so on. This took Elul a lot of time and energy, as he did all of the real estate investigations.

Crunch Time

To make a long story even longer, earlier this week I went down for my second interview at one of the schools. During the interview, the Principal asked me to return on Friday (yesterday) to teach another demonstration for the lower grades. I understood her request entirely, as teaching large classes (35 or more students) of Israeli seventh graders is not for the faint-hearted, and agreed to come back.

The next day, I spoke to the English coordinator at one of my schools in Nahariya. At that time, she essentially offered me more teaching hours for next year than I had this year, on the condition that I be able to teach three days a week. As the commute from Tivon to Nahariya is very long and very expensive by public transport, and there is a limit to the travel allowance that the Ministry of Education will reimburse teachers, I told her I would talk to Elul immediately and get back to her.

To my complete amazement, when I told Elul about the new offer, he simply replied, "oh, well, then take the offer and we won't move. They've opened some new roads and the commute is getting shorter and easier every day. If we stay, we won't have to pay for moving or buying new furniture either, so we'll be able to save more for a down payment on a house."

Zoink! Problem solved. After picking my jaw up off the sidewalk, I hurriedly called my English coordinator and told her the good news. Both she, and I, were thrilled.

Ever Decreasing Concentric Circles

So, chaverim, after months of fiddling around, trying to simultaneously live our current lives while secretly trying to wind it down and prepare for a new one, we are back to where we started originally. I have to say I am overjoyed about this decision. It was a hard one for me to agree to move, because on the one hand I know full well what a crappy commute can do to anyone: it can turn a decent gig into a soul-sucking job and turn a happily married couple into a couple of roommates living separate lives. And I'm not willing to be in a marriage where one partner has to suffer in order to make the other partner happy.

On the other hand, I love the sea and I love Nahariya. It's hard to describe the feeling I get, riding around on my bicycle in this beloved city, glimpsing the glittering sea between the beautiful white buildings, ducking my head to dodge the palm fronds and flowering bushes that adorn the front of every home. It's wonderful to have a great doctor who actually knows me and appears to care about my well-being. My pharmacist and I exchange jokes when we see each other. The Russian lady who helps me mend my clothes knows me by name. I see my friends on the street and we stop to chat or have a spontaneous cup of coffee.  We have been so happy here, and have made such a wonderful and supportive network of friends and professional contacts, that it was both breaking my heart and completely freaking me out to think about starting over in a new town, less than two years after making Aliyah.

We moved from Pahrump, Nevada to Boca Raton, Florida, near the end of 2010. Then we moved from Boca Raton to Israel at the end of 2011. Now we're just into our 16th month in Nahariya and we had to move again? Oy va voy. Seriously, the older I get, the more anxious and fatigued I feel with every move. The idea of inevitably drifting away from our friends here, who make our lives so joyful, was just plain depressing. I knew we would eventually land on our feet and bloom wherever we were planted, but I just didn't feel like being transplanted yet.

And so, all's well that ends well. We are here to stay, job or no jobs. As many Israelis have pointed out to us, quite rightly, in Israel you build your jobs around your life, not the other way around. Jobs here can be very unstable, especially in the private business sector, and it just doesn't make sense to move your whole life around to suit the particular circumstances of one job that may evaporate just a few months later.

Ironically, the item that greeted me in my mailbox, the minute we had reached our decision, was a notice to go to the post office and pick up my brand-spanking-new Israeli passport. My dream has come true!

Yesh! (Got it!)

Shabbat shalom, everyone!