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Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

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!
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby sid » Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:32 pm

The few Jewish colleagues I worked with in the ME did not share their religious affiliation. Only a tiny few in administration, and perhaps a couple personal friends. Students and fellow teachers did not know.
Sadly, in the ME there remains great prejudice against Jews. Now and again, a teacher would be the target of rumors that they were Jewish, which never resulted in anything tangible happening, but generally such a rumor was started because for whatever reason the teacher wasn't particularly liked or trusted by students.
In my years there, I heard some truly appalling statements made by students and families against Jews. I'd like to think I contributed a tiny bit to ameliorating these views, but it's hard to know.
In most of the ME, it's legal but socially unacceptable to be Jewish.
If you chose to explore this route, have your eyes open to what you'd be facing, and how you would approach it. Discuss with admin, before you sign, how they recommend you approach it, and how they intend to support you.
If you have any bits in your CV or passport suggesting affiliation to Jewish organizations or Israel, be prepared to make these disappear. You can't get a visa approved if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport.
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby ap410 » Thu Jan 25, 2018 9:13 pm

Thank you very much sid. Can you let me know which country you and your colleagues worked in?

sid wrote:
> The few Jewish colleagues I worked with in the ME did not share their
> religious affiliation. Only a tiny few in administration, and perhaps a
> couple personal friends. Students and fellow teachers did not know.
> Sadly, in the ME there remains great prejudice against Jews. Now and again,
> a teacher would be the target of rumors that they were Jewish, which never
> resulted in anything tangible happening, but generally such a rumor was
> started because for whatever reason the teacher wasn't particularly liked
> or trusted by students.
> In my years there, I heard some truly appalling statements made by students
> and families against Jews. I'd like to think I contributed a tiny bit to
> ameliorating these views, but it's hard to know.
> In most of the ME, it's legal but socially unacceptable to be Jewish.
> If you chose to explore this route, have your eyes open to what you'd be
> facing, and how you would approach it. Discuss with admin, before you sign,
> how they recommend you approach it, and how they intend to support you.
> If you have any bits in your CV or passport suggesting affiliation to
> Jewish organizations or Israel, be prepared to make these disappear. You
> can't get a visa approved if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport.
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby sid » Fri Jan 26, 2018 2:41 am

Qatar for quite a while. Also others for less time, and my colleagues hit all the ME countries.
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Response

Postby PsyGuy » Fri Jan 26, 2018 5:23 am

I fully concur with @Sid, It would be foolish to share your religious affiliation and you would be wise to keep it private. If you cant do that or arent comfortable with your children doing that, than I would avoid the ME. I wouldnt share it with recruiters or leadership if you want the appointment, contracts have been rescinded based on such information. I wouldnt expect any support anyway, theres nothing in it for leadership to side with you and could possibly be used by leadership against you in the future.
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby 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 in their region with a very international student body though. 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. In most cases students were interested in different religious and cultural practices and traditions. We feel like we had great opportunities to teach students to respect differences.
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby shadowjack » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:45 pm

7 years in Saudi. Our Saudi friends, "But Mohammad (PBUH) had Jewish neighbours and he didn't care."

Our Saudi Friends, "Israel is not a good country."

They knew the difference between the two, that's for sure.

But it might be harder for you, as your religion is also on your identity document. But if you put Christian, they won't care and it's a white lie, and as long as your last name is generic, not like Netanyahu, you should be ok.
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby vandsmith » Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:40 am

i concur with the stamp in the passport thing.

even if you are not jewish - and there's no reason to ever say that you'r jewish, christian, muslim, or anything else - and you have a stamp from israel, you WILL be questioned and possibly detained for a while. i didn't know nay jewish people when i was in UAE but i cannot imagine they would be treated the same, seeing as how all the maps and textbook maps had israel completely blacked out with permanent marker!

if you're real keen on going ME and are jewish, go but don't ever say you're jewish, nor should you go to israel and back unless you want serious hassle.

good luck!

v.
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby sid » Sun Jan 28, 2018 4:41 am

Everyone is right here. I too met many liberal Arabs and Muslims who were happy to coexist with Jews as fellow people of the book. There are many.
My post focused more on the risks, which are real. Fifteen years in the ME, I collected a few very unpleasant memories in this area. My advice remains the same. Know what you’re heading to.
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Discussion

Postby PsyGuy » Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:32 am

I would strongly agree with @vandsmith and consider putting Christian on your identity document as its a choice you cant change later.

You can alleviate some of the entry issues with Israel by requesting a second passport from the DOS for exactly this purpose. The second passport costs the same as a standard passport but is only valid for 2 years though it can be renewed. You are required to send a notarized request stating the specific reason and the countries you intend to visit and that visiting these countries will impact your passage through and into these regions.

I concur with @Sid its not really a problem until its a problem and then its going to be a bad problem and since you can see that from here and now it would be imprudent not to plan accordingly.
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby mamava » Mon Jan 29, 2018 2:34 pm

For what it's worth, putting "Christian" on a form to hid your Jewish faith would be problematic for a lot of people. As a Christian, I couldn't put "Jewish" or "none" when asked...part of having and living faith is not denying it. We did look at this as Christians in terms of being able to worship, how open or not we could be in Saudi before going there. In Saudi only Islam is legal--there are expat conditions where people can worship. I didn't worry that listing "Christian" on the form would keep us from getting visas...but listing "Jewish" might, so that might be a risk you'd have to take. Chances are, if you got the visa, you'd probably be OK once you were in-country.
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby vandsmith » Mon Jan 29, 2018 4:49 pm

as another example of possible quagmires, when i got my blood taken and fingerprints done when i was in UAE, the lady taking my blood was required to ask my religion. i said other. an arab colleague later told me that i should have just said christian to forestall any problems. he said if there is anything the religious 'over there' dislike more than jews, it's atheists'.

i understand the faith-demand that you not hide your belief but i suppose i understand the will-to-live demand more. plus, haven't you seen the jack black snl song 'hornets nest'? come on! j/k.

but really, you decide to live there it likely won't be a problem. the biggest problems i ever heard of was someone going to israel and being detained for a while. i think there is a way to go through jordan actually, and not get a stamp...i could be wrong about that though. anyways, maybe it's akin to being muslim and visiting the border of the u.s.?

best of luck!

v.
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby ap410 » Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:13 pm

Thank you very much! My fear is not so much filling out the forms. I was more concerned with my children being subjected to discrimination, hatred, etc. I have no problem not telling people that I'm Jewish -- I do that now for the most part in the US because there is just as much anti-semitism here as there is in other parts of the world. My children, however, are a different story. They are happy and proud to be Jewish, except in December when they want to celebrate Christmas. They sing Jewish songs all the time and I'm more concerned that they will encounter problems because children don't hide who they are. The Israel thing isn't a problem for me at this point. I've never been and don't have an overwhelming desire to go. Again, thanks!
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby reisgio » Mon Jan 29, 2018 9:12 pm

ap410, for goodness sake, don't take your innocent Jewish children to the Middle East! How bad is your life in the US that you would even consider it? And, please, don't tell me that anti-Semitism in the US is anything close to anti-Semitism in most of the rest of the world. It is so much greater everywhere than in the US. While the US is not perfect, good luck having your kids sing their songs on a street in London! Ha. I wouldn't be comfortable having my children basically hide their identities just so I could work somewhere exotic. What's wrong with you? Look to East Asia, but even there you could potentially run into more dangerous anti-Semitism than you would ever find in the US. South America may be your best best, as the general ignorance and general poverty of the population sort of takes up a lot of time for locals - they don't have as much time to hate Jews and blame them for all of their problems.
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Re: Anyone have experience with being Jewish in the ME?

Postby Nomad68 » Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:54 pm

I am neither Jewish nor Muslim but I have spent a lot of time around the ME. 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. I can't comment on the UAE or Oman but the risk of running into haters might make you reconsider. At best claim to be Christian and at least you are not considered an infidel.
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