Jewish Educators in the Middle East

February 1, 2018

Long before the turmoil we’re witnessing today in the Middle East, I was offered a teaching position at the International School of Aleppo, Syria. As a history buff, I was totally on-board by the prospect of exploring the vibrant cultures and history of the region. But….What would life be like for a Jewish teacher living in Syria?

The recruiter was upfront with answers to my questions: I would be exposed to anti-Semitic remarks from students who use the term “Jew,” accompanied by derogatory expletives. I should keep my Jewish heritage secret. If I decided to travel to Israel, my stamped passports could bar me from re-entering Syria. Common sense and prudence said loud and clear: Don’t go!

Today, in my position (as Moderator of the ISR Forum), I was intrigued by this recent thread:

Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby ap410 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:07 pm
I’m considering applying for positions at a few schools in the ME (Bahrain, UAE, and possibly Oman), but I’m concerned that since my children and I are Jewish, we could run into trouble, hostilities, etc. We’re not super religious, but my kids have a habit of singing the Dreidel song in December, and I don’t want them to feel like they have to hide their religion. Does anyone have experience with this in the ME? Thanks!

.My first reaction was, ‘Are you kidding!?’ My opportunity was pre-9/11. What could it be like today for a Jew teaching in the Middle East? International Schools do tend to promote diversity, tolerance, inclusion, equality and a host of Mission Statement ideals. But … as we all know, life can be quite different outside that supposed safe haven.

Here’s some positive and negative Forum Comments that illustrate the dilemma…

by reisgio » Mon Jan 29, 2018 9:12 pm  For goodness sake, don’t take your innocent Jewish children to the Middle East!… I wouldn’t be comfortable having my children basically hide their identities just so I could work somewhere exotic. What’s wrong with you?

by justlooking » Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:35 am This has not been my experience working in four international schools in the ME in Egypt, Oman, Morocco, and Dubai. All the schools were top tier with a very international student body. I found most people respect Judaism and Jews; it’s Israel that’s the problem. As long as you’re not espousing pro-Israeli sentiment, you’ll be left alone.

by Nomad68 » Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:54 pm I really would not recommend going to places like Saudi, Kuwait or Qatar even if you hid your Jewish identity. The anti-Jewish sentiments would shock you.

 by shadowjack » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:45 pm 7 years in Saudi. Our Saudi friends had Jewish neighbours and didn’t care.” “Israel is not a good country.” They knew the difference between the two, that’s for sure….

 My purpose in calling attention to this topic is to hopefully encourage ISR Members to initiate a place where my Jewish brothers and sisters can turn to for first-hand information on what it’s really like for a Jewish International Educator to live and teach in the Middle East, a decision clearly not to be taken lightly.

Have an experience or information to share?

Please scroll down to participate


7 Nations Close Borders with Qatar

June 8, 2017

A sudden turn of events may adversely affect International Educators planning to, or currently working in Qatar and the surrounding region:

Monday, June 5 – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Libya, Yemen and the Maldives collectively cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Citizens of these countries have been banned from traveling to Qatar, living there, or traveling through the country. Citizens of the aforementioned countries have 14 days to leave. The UAE and Egypt gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave. Middle Eastern airlines are canceling all routes to Qatar. The participating 7 nations have closed their airspace, along with land and sea borders with Qatar.

Qatar has long been accused of backing militant groups, including so-called Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda, which Qatar denies. It is believed that wealthy individuals in Qatar have made donations to terrorists and the government has given money and weapons to hard-line Islamic groups in Syria. Qatar is also accused of having links to a group formerly known as the Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate. The countries closing their borders with Qatar say they are doing so for security reasons.

While the US, UK and other Western nations have not levied actions against Qatar, the consequences of the 7 participating nations is sure to have an effect on teachers from every nation working in the region.

To discuss the significance of these events in relation to living/teaching in Qatar & the Gulf region in general, please Scroll down to participate.

For more information:
BBC  News
Aljazeera News
The Hill

 


Escape Plan in Place?

May 18, 2017

..  Do you have an evacuation plan ready to implement should it become necessary to make a quick escape due to political or social upheaval in your current country of residence? Many International Educators I know are under the impression their school will take charge in such a situation and fly them to safety. Disconcertingly, a majority of international schools have no such evacuation plan in place–it’s every man for himself.

Believing your embassy will take care of you if an emergency exit becomes necessary can lead to a false sense of security. At least, that’s been my experience as an American living abroad. Following 9/11, the entire staff of the American embassy in Lahore, Pakistan was the very first to jump ship. The same was true in Guatemala after a military overthrow of the government. In the D.R. Congo, military/rebels could easily shut down the only road to the airport, requiring a seriously strong Plan B.

The American embassy serves primarily as an information and advisory body. Its recommendation is that if a crisis arises, US citizens should make plans to leave on a commercial carrier. In the event it does becomes necessary for the US embassy to organize an evacuation, Americans are required to sign a promissory note saying they will cover the of cost their flight “on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.” So much for putting my US tax money to good use!

My school in Pakistan took responsibility for getting us out soon after 9/11. They set the staff up with a travel agent and covered the cost of our exit flights. In Guatemala, with military tanks in the streets, helicopters patrolling and radio/TV/phone communication shut down, we were on our own. This school had previously offered no support for anything, so we had no reason to believe things would change in an emergency. The director lived just doors from me. He was unavailable.

The speed and regularity at which the global-political climate is changing can suddenly make a country that was relatively safe when you arrived a hot-spot to be avoided. Believing/hoping that your school or embassy is willing/able to take care of you in an emergency could be putting all your ‘safety’ eggs in one basket. A good question for a director while recruiting could be: “What’s your plan, if necessary, for an emergency evacuation?”

ISR Asks: Does your school have an emergency evacuation plan in place? If so, how practical is it, and is there a solid Plan B? Have you created a personal plan for yourself and your family just in case you find yourself on your own?


Hesitant to Leave Home?

July 14, 2016

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With the recent rash of terror attacks, more than a handful of International Educators are reconsidering their decision to teach overseas. France, Belgium, Indonesia, United States, Turkey, Tunisia and other formerly “safe spots” have now taken a place on the “proceed with caution” list.

The possibility of finding yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time is about as likely as winning the lottery. Still, any increased exposure to the possibility of terror is enough to keep some of us home. In a previous ISR Survey, 360 of the 698 International Educator respondents said the attacks on France and Brussels were not deterrents, and they would continue to live their lives as always while taking the normal precautions one would in any city at home or abroad.

ISR asks: Has the most recent barrage of terror attacks caused you to reassess International Teaching as a career? Take our short Survey and see what International Educators have to say on this topic.


Would You Still Teach in Western Europe?

April 7, 2016

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The world as we knew it just a few years ago has drastically changed. Locations once considered tourist destinations and desirable haunts for expats now top the list of places to avoid. That is, if you value your safety.

In light of the tragic attacks that recently took place in Paris and Brussels, ISR asks: Would you accept a teaching position in this area of the world if it was offered? For educators currently teaching in Western Europe: Will the threat of continued terrorism deter you from renewing your contract when it expires?

The staff at ISR concur that there are locations in the world where we once felt far safer teaching and living than if we had been in our home cities of the West. We agree we would be hard-pressed to return to some of these once tranquil areas of the world due to the current and ever-present threat of terrorism, war and/or political revolution.

As a long time, highly desirable International Teaching destination, is Western Europe making its way onto the list of places to avoid? Take our short Survey  below:

Comments?


Schools In Dangerous Locales

November 13, 2014

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    In response to our previous article, What Would it Take?, ISR asked international educators to weigh-in on the topic of salary packages attractive enough to get you to overcome your resistance to work in a country previously on your ‘no-go, no-way, no-how’ list of places to work.

     Signing on to a school in a local that doesn’t meet your criteria for language, geographical location, political and social outlook is one thing. But when rampant crime and the potential to get hurt are a very real possibility, that’s an entirely new ball game

     Of course we all have a different tolerance for dangerous situations and some people seem to thrive on danger. One thing I’ve noticed for certain is that school directors seem to have the highest tolerance for such situations and can even make light of them, especially when they are trying to sell me on their school.

     Lets stay safe and help each other avoid unforeseen dangerous situations. We’ve started a list of Crime Ridden Locations and encourage you to add locations and personal experiences. International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is All About!

We’ve started off the conversation with excerpts from ISR  School Reviews, Forum and Blog posts from ISR members and site visitors:  We invite your comments:

Venezuela

It’s not safe to go out after dark, and during the day most people keep their phones hidden and carry “rob money” just in case. 

My friends have been robbed in so many different parts of the city at any hour of the day.

When I walk outside, or when I take the bus or even when I take a taxi, I am always alert. I know who is behind me at all times and constantly taking precautions no matter what I am doing.

A young college student in my guarded condo complex was robbed at gunpoint at the bus stop right outside our gate.

I was only robbed once and it was only for some small change. I consider myself lucky.

I worked there for years and left because I knew too many people who had been shot, kidnapped, or had their homes robbed at gunpoint. No one is safe there anywhere, especially not if you’re a Gringo!

My wife was mugged and I was nearly gunned down just outside of our flat. And we lived in a rather posh area.

Bratislava

I was robbed twice in 4 months! If you go there you will regret it.

Philippines

I had two people pull a gun on me, and one was just outside a mall. So it is dangerous enough, and even more so if you were actually involved with drugs.

D. R. Congo

They broke in and tied up the teacher. Then they ram shackled the house and took everything of value. She wasn’t hurt and her maid found her still on the floor with her hands and feet bound with rope.

Ecuador

When my husband left the bank the teller must have had accomplices waiting outside because at the first traffic light he was approached by two men with guns. He had no choice but to let him in. They had him drive to a secluded area and tied him up in the back seat. Then they used the car to rob two houses. They left him tied up in the back seat of the car and fled. This sort of crime is not uncommon here.

Guatemala

About half the expats I know have been mugged/held up at gunpoint/pick-pocketed etc. But the number of ways in which your personal freedom is curtailed in societies like these gets old

When they can’t get ring off your finger they will cut off the finger. These robberies happened on the city busses. Don’t wear jewelry and if you do, make sure you can get it off.

Please scroll down to post


What Would it Take?

November 6, 2014

calculator6923345There’s more than a few places in this world where many of us would not be willing to live & teach. I had my reasons for wanting to avoid Pakistan, but the salary/package was so attractive I could hardly say YES fast enough. I loved Pakistan & my bank account literally grew exponentially. The Congo wasn’t on the top of my list, either, but the package was so absolutely alluring I couldn’t say NO, and again, I banked a ton of moohla & got in some outstanding travel adventures.

When I did finally land a job at my top-pick school, I took a 60% pay cut for the “privilege” of working there. It wasn’t long before I started to feel I was being taken advantage of, especially since the cost of living was far, far from cheap. I went from banking thousands a month to putting away a measly few hundred, if I was lucky. As a trade-off, I had completely derailed my progress towards financial security.

While money isn’t my top priority, it’s an important factor considering international teachers have no pension plans like teachers I know back home. So, while I want to see the world & live internationally, I do need to continue planning for the future.

Would I go back to Pakistan today? How about Kuwait, Liberia, or Egypt? From the comfort of my desk I will say NO. But, sitting across from a recruiter & in the excitement of the moment, bolstered by the promise of a great salary? I have the feeling I would say YES!

I think it’s fair to say we all have a figure in our head of what constitutes a great salary. Of the places in the world where you would not be willing to live & teach, what sort of salary/package would it take to get you to change YOUR mind?

Name your place & package: