by Mihaela Schwartz
A name often mentioned in newspapers’ headlines, Israel is also a country with a high immigration rate mostly because Jewish people from all over the world are encouraged to relocate to “their fathers’ land”. Once they commit to live here, at least for a medium term period, they are granted Israeli citizenship instantly and they acquire a special status of “new comers” (olim hadashim), which gives them access to different types of assistance aimed at ensuring a smooth integration in this rough country: Hebrew courses in special language schools called “ulpan”, financial incentives, logistical and administrative support, job seeking consulting services, etc.
However, as different religious groups co-exist in this country, the “olim” are not the only type of immigrants arriving to Israel. Moreover, mixed (interfaith, interracial and international) marriages are a common reality of the contemporary world.
Some of these immigrants choose the professional path of being an English teacher either because this is how they have earned their living in their country of origin, or because they find it an appealing opportunity for a career change. Little do they know when making this decision about the painstaking procedures they will have to go through before obtaining a stable English teaching position.
Becoming an English teacher
The first step has actually to be made prior to arriving to Israel as it is advisable to have an apostille on your diplomas (if coming from a state party of the Hague Convention) or to have your documents authenticated and legalized (if your country of origin is not a member of the Apostille Convention). Armed with the original documents and their sworn translations (in English, Hebrew or Arabic), you can approach the Ministry of Education in order to have your academic qualifications (BA and master) recognized. Once you get over the clerks’ sour face and have managed to deal with their impossibility to express themselves in a foreign language, all you have to do is wait for the recognition certificates to be delivered to your mail box (in about a month).
If you think that now you can start applying for a job, you could not be further from the truth. Although the demand for English teachers is theoretically high in Israel and there are plenty of openings even during the school year, the way to obtain such a position is rather long and painful.
First of all, you have to learn the Hebrew language at a “post-ulpan level”. This would mean an upper-intermediate – advanced level or a B2-C1 one according to the European Framework of Reference for Languages. Any language teacher knows that it takes up to three years of intense study to reach such a level. Moreover, from the Israeli education authorities’ point of view, it is impossible to teach English through English, even if the students are already in high school.
Once you finished the first module (Aleph in the ulpan’s terminology), you can enroll on a special teacher training course provided you already have a teaching certificate and you are a Jewish immigrant. Although not taken into consideration within the diplomas’ recognition procedure, the teaching certificate issued by the university you graduated from is a must-have in order to be accepted to this 6 months course held annually or every 2-3 years (depending on the amount of candidates). The course includes teaching related subjects (psychology, pedagogy, didactic methodology, etc.), Israeli and Jewish history and literature, the country’s geography and biblical knowledge.
However, things are not the same if you don’t belong to the “olim hadashim” category. As the “morim olim” course is financed by the Ministry of Absorption (a special body dealing with Jewish immigrants’ issues), the access to it is restricted to those who came to Israel through other legal ways. The latter are required to attend the classes of a private college or university in order to get an Israeli teaching certificate. The admission to such programs is based on a Hebrew language proficiency exam (Yael).
In a nutshell, there is a difficult process to go through in order to get a job in a country with a severe lack of English teachers! A land of contrasts from all points of view, Israel does not make life easy neither to Jewish immigrants, nor to the ones belonging to other religious groups.
Mihaela Schwartz is the owner of The Free Travel Guide and an English teacher, currently living in Israel.