Friday, February 23, 2007

Me and the Misrad HaChinuch

Like everywhere else, there are days here when we feel victories, and days when we get frustrated and ready to scream. Today was a victory. I still can’t believe what I accomplished and I must say that I’m quite proud of myself.

In order to transfer my teaching certificate from the States, I have needed to jump through a number of hoops. I took a once a week course all year last year for people who wanted to be English teachers. Then, I had to take a series of six courses, all in Hebrew! And…sit through SIX exams, which were THREE hours each (which seemed a bit odd since each of the six classes was about 10 days long...this may be the longest test for the shortest class in history!) Oh boy…so, I went to class for months on Wednesday nights last year and then I spent six hours a day for the entire summer hearing lectures in Hebrew about Jewish religion, Israel History, Israeli Literature, Civics, Hebrew language and Torah. It was actually a very interesting collection of courses and I certainly learned a great deal. Those of you who know me know that I’m a very serious student – so I, of course, went to every single class and studied for each test. I knew that I had done terrifically. But, I also knew that there would be a catch – the Ministry of Education is not an easy system to navigate, and I was sure that I would get ensnared in some way.

And ensnared I was. After hounding the ministry for six months, I was finally informed of my scores – 100%, 95%, 92%, 93%, 75% (Hebrew language – thank Gd for that grade!), and 51%. Um – come again? Did you say 51%? Yep, 51% on Israeli History. Well, that certainly didn’t make sense. Ask me anything from the course that you want to and I can tell you about it. I know my Israeli History. So, there had to be a mistake. I was informed that it was what it was. The way the system works – they said – was that I could sit for a second three hour exam on Israeli History. Period. No chance to see the exam – no questions asked.

Well, that was simply not going to be acceptable. But, I had no idea how to fight with a system that declared that you couldn’t fight with it. So, first I wrote a letter to one person, and Cd it to another demanding that I had a right to see the test. I had my friend translate it and I sent it off. No answer. Then I hounded and hounded the office. Did I mention that the woman in charge of the testing was on leave until mid February? So, I finally got her to call me and I booked an appointment to go and see her. I told her that I had a right to see the test. She had already heard about me from other people in the Ministry and understood that I wanted to see the test and meet with her.

So, I took a day off of work to meet with her. When I went in she was truly bewildered. She completely and totally could not understand why I was going against the system. The system works in a certain way, she explained. If I failed the first exam, I could take the second exam, no questions asked. Why, she wanted to know, was I fighting the system and making more trouble for myself and a delay, when I could just follow the rules. In the best Hebrew that I have, I tried, for over half an hour to explain that I had studied for the test, that I knew everything, and that I had the right to see the exam. I wanted to understand what I had done wrong, because I certainly couldn’t do better over six months later without an understanding of my mistakes. She absolutely did not understand my point or why I was being so rebellious. I, of course, could not fathom her viewpoint; nor could I believe that no one had ever asked to see their exam before!
When she finally let me see the test, it was as I expected. They had marked down points in the margin with no explanations. I missed 15 out of 25 points on a Holocaust question. I showed her that I had brought along the materials for our course and challenged her to compare my answer with the course materials. She didn’t appreciate the challenge. It went on like this for quite awhile with her telling me to just sit for the test again and me explaining that I wasn’t sitting for a test without an explanation of how to do better.

Finally, she said, “Ok – give me 24 hours.” She was willing to talk to her supervisor. Long story short (sort of?), she agreed to have two other people grade the test. I only needed 9 more points to pass – a 60%. She told me to call Thursday, and I think she was quite relieved when I left the room.

So, I called today, very nervous. What would she say? Would I pass or have to fight for an answer as to why I didn’t pass? She started to explain something – and of course I didn’t know the word she used! Oh dear – was she saying you passed or you failed!? It turned out that the two graders did agree that I had passed.

But wait – there is MUCH more. Then she went on to say THANK YOU. I swear – I almost fell off of the park bench. Thank you? “Yes, thank you,” she said. “I have never had anyone challenge how we do things,” she continued, “and I appreciate that you stuck by your convictions. You believed that you had passed and weren’t willing to just do what I told you to do. I’ve learned a lot from this experience.”

The Ministry is not an easy system to navigate, and getting my certificate transferred has been quite a process. I’ve wanted to give up, scream, and demand a new system quite a few times. Today, it was all worth while. Rather than doing any of these things, I used an incredible amount of energy to push and push for something that I knew was right. And not only did I come out with the answer that I knew was true – but I got someone to consider how she works, and to consider change. Now, that is worth all of the effort!

Israel HighWay

One of the various small jobs that I do is working on a weekly, on-line publication called Israel HighWay. The target audience is North American high school students and the goal is to educate and inspire them about Israel. So, we are going to start posting the 'Issue of the Week' each week on the blog. In addition to the Issue of the Week, there is a collection of 12-15 additional articles on all sorts of different subject pertaining to Israel. While the target audience is for highschool kids, the articles are interesting to adults as well. If you are interested in getting this weekly in your email box (or have kids who you think would enjoy it) please click here. This is a great tool for Jewish educators who want to bring current events and interesting Israel angles into their classroom.

No One Uses Snail Mail Anymore - Too Bad
by Israel Highway Staff

In May 2008, in conjunction with the 60th Anniversary of the founding of the State, Israel will host the World Stamp Championships. Over 2500 stamp exhibits from 70 countries will participate from May 14-21, 2008. For one week, Israel will be at the center of the world of stamps, confirming what many Zionist stamp enthusiasts have always believed.

Stamps have an incredibly colorful history and tell a detailed story of a country. They are like a footprint, recording history, culture, politics, and even food. In Israel - a young country of less than 60 years and, at the same time, an old land with a history dating back thousands of years - stamps capture both the vigor of the new country while simultaneously paying tribute to the ancient land.
Prior to 1948, the stamps of the British Palestine Mandate usually showed a British monarch or an ancient site in Jerusalem. After Israel’s founding, however, Israeli stamps became a window into Israel’s ancient and modern history, culture, heroes, flowers, geography, Zionism and Judaism. Israeli stamps have a high level of artistic expression and are produced with strict attention to the balance between the number of issues, variety of topics and range of denominations. Their unique creativity and vibrancy make Israeli stamps highly valued in the world’s philatelic circles. Israeli stamps reflect Israel’s aspirations for peace and the country’s efforts in building and developing its society and culture.

The history of the country is recorded through stamps in a way that appeals to stamp aficionados, history buffs and lovers of art and design. Through stamps, the collector or the recipient of a piece of mail anywhere in the world can get an original perspective on the images, symbols, personalities, and events in the story of life in Israel.

Each year, the Israeli Postal Authority's Philatelic Service produces approximately 25 to 30 stamps in five series. Stamps are accompanied by first-day covers, a collector's page, an annual album, postcards, and artistic posters. The Philatelic Service is also responsible for producing special postmarks, which are also valued among stamp enthusiasts. The Philatelic Service has some 44,000 subscribers in Israel and another 7,000 overseas who receive every new stamp as it is issued. Israeli stamps are also sold at counters all over Israel, through stamp dealers, and via some 15 agents overseas.

This week, on February 20, the Israeli Postal Authority issued its newest stamp series dedicated to Israeli Educational Television; Physical Education and Sports in Israel; and Development of the Galilee and the Negev. These three series offer a perfect example of the uniqueness of Israeli stamps and how they reflect Israeli society. The series feature favorite characters of Israeli children’s television; the Israeli enthusiasm for sports and the outdoors; and the Israeli/Zionist pioneering spirit of settling the Galilee and the Negev.

Last year alone, Israel published stamp series dedicated to Israeli leaders, flowers, Rabbis of Jerusalem, Crusader sites in Israel, the Mishna, Sephardi Hamsas (hand-shaped good luck amulets) and more.

To draw further attention to the variety and quality of Israeli stamps, the Israeli Postal service is currently running an on-line contest to choose the most beautiful Israeli stamp of 2006. Prizes are available for those who choose the winning entry. The contest runs through February 28 - so vote today!

If you are looking for an interactive and fun way to learn more about the history of Israel, Judaism and the Land of Israel, look at Israel's stamps. There’s even an on-line stamp game that is a fun and easy way to learn about Israeli leaders, flora and fauna, famous rabbis and more!

Since the founding of the State of Israel, collecting Israeli stamps has been a favorite past-time for both the serious stamp collector and the curious Zionist. No wonder Israeli stamps are still scooped up by collectors around the world. Now, if only we could figure how to use them on email... hmmm.