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Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Non-year Long Year In Israel - Part II

(This blog continues from where I left off yesterday)

Besides for the fact that the Doctor's office was in the kitchen of his family's apartment, where a full size table/bed thing sat across from the refrigerator right next to pots and pans that hung from the wall, the visit was, thankfully, uneventful.

I shared the information regarding my school's lack of helpfulness with my Mom and my sister, but my disgust and disdain for the school I was in did not yet reach the level causing me to cry "panic" to my mother.

I drudged on, trying to enjoy my new found friendships and focus on the exquisite tours we would take of this majestic country. G-d knows the schooling itself was lackluster. It seemed all the teachers and administration were hired by "protexia" (a word used often in Israel to describe the intertwined business and family/friend relationships), and not hired because they had any qualifying characteristics. I called home from time to time and sometimes threw out the "I don't deserve this, I should transfer to another school".

A couple weeks after the doctor episode, my sister gave birth to a baby boy. When a baby boy is born, the first Friday after his birth, a small evening party called a "Shalom Zachor" is thrown to welcome him into his Jewish community. The school would let us go off on our own for weekends to celebrate the Sabbath, but although in Israel there is no school on Fridays, we were not allowed to leave for the weekend on Thursday night, we still had to wait until Friday. I asked for permission to leave Thursday after classes so I could help my sister prepare for this special Sabbath and the school actually did grant me permission. However, things went a little haywire and this incident threw me for a loop once again.

After my last class Thursday, I packed my bag and went to leave for the weekend. It was not curfew yet and the door was unlocked, but the "Madricha" (dorm counselor with the key around her neck) caught me at the door and made a special request of me. She was throwing a surprise birthday party for girl S. and asked if I would stay to help celebrate. I told her I was concerned if I did not get out before curfew, the door would be locked and I would miss my opportunity. She let me know if that was the case, she WOULD unlock the door for me, and she was sincere about this. She couldn't know what was to happen anymore than I did.

After the party, I was on my way to the still unlocked door yet again, when in walks the House Mother. I said a casual hello and goodbye to this woman that I "love" and approached the door.

"Orah, where are you going? It is curfew now."

"Mrs. G. don't you remember? You gave me permission to leave tonight so I can help my sister."

"Yes, but that was hours ago, I can't let you leave now."

"Uhhh, and why is that?"

"Because it is dark and late and if something happened to you it would be our responsibility."

"Well my mom knows I am going, so you don't have to be concerned about that."

"Well I still can't let you go."

(at this point, a crowd of 20 girls have formed to hear this conversation go down)

"Well, if I call my sister and she relieves you of your responsibilities (which they seemed fine with when it came to the doctor situation), then can I go."

"No, because if something happens to you, she will deny that she was responsible."

"HUH?? Okay, if I call my Mom and she says I can go, will you then let me out?"

"No, because if something happens to you, she will deny it and will sue us."

"Wait, if I call my Mom right now, and these 20 witnesses hear her tell you to let me out of this school, you still would not?"

"That is right, because we will be sued."

Holy mother of crap!!! I am officially a hostage.

I could have left anyway after the House Mother did her count. I could have left with the key that every girl in the school already had a copy of. I could have left through the door in the basement we secretly left unlocked. I could have gone out onto an upstairs overhang and climbed fifteen feet down a downspout and left that way, but I didn't. Because I am actually either too compliant of a child, or too stupid. I called my Mom and sister and cried "Get me out of this place". And I continued to call from then on, but my mother would convince me to stay put and focus on the positive aspects. And so I put up with the torture another few weeks, until the S&!@ hit the fan.

From about 12 - 3 every day, we get free time. We can go out for lunch, run errands, visit with friends in other schools or relatives that we may have in Israel, whatever we want to use the time for, we can. But come 3 pm, we have to be back in school for our next class.

On this particular day, I was running errands in a location where I had to take two buses to get back to school. I had plenty of time to take the first bus to the main bus terminal in Jerusalem and then transfer buses to my school's neighborhood, with time to spare. However, when I arrived at the main bus terminal, something chaotic was unfolding causing the buses to "take a break". In Israel, this is nothing new. Could be a bomb scare or something else, it was just not good timing for me. I noticed the taxis were moving, so I decided to hail a taxi for the rest of the ride to school.

My school was less than ten minutes from the area and is a well known neighborhood. It is not remotely possible, that a taxi driver in Israel would not know how to get to this area. When I got into the taxi, I specifically requested that the taxi driver put on the meter. In Israel you need to make this request, or the taxi driver will overcharge you at your destination. He argued, mumbled and then reluctantly turned on his meter, and drove off. After only a minute of driving, I noticed he was going the wrong way, so I reminded him where it was I was going. It got creepy then, because he started asking me where to go and claiming he didn't know how to get there and he was obviously circling blocks... I don't know if he thought I was some dumb American student he could take advantage of, but even as I spoke to him in fluent Hebrew, he pretended he was lost and continued to drive whichever direction he so chose. I even asked him at one point to let me out and I would find another taxi. He would not stop. I could not believe I was now being held hostage by a taxi driver.

About five minutes after three, he finally arrived right in front of my school. Class was already underway, as I could see the back of the classroom's window that looks directly out onto the street where the taxi had arrived. Before the taxi driver pulled to a complete stop, I looked towards the meter to see the price of a twenty minute ride that should have taken less than ten minutes. But as I looked towards the meter, the taxi driver was already ripping the receipt paper out of the meter and crushing it within his palms. He then quoted me an exorbitant price for a ride I had taken on many occasions, across its usual path, and now I was steamed. I pulled out the money I felt I owed him and not a shekel more. I argued that he took me hostage on a wild car ride and erased the meter before I could get the receipt, and I began to exit the car.

At this point he exited the car as well, and his voice captured the attention of my classmates through the open classroom window. What is about to unfold, took me years to reveal to anyone, even my parents. It is probably the most traumatic experience I ever had and it resulted in a reaction from the school that opened a Pandora's box, for both, everything great and everything bad in my life.

He grabbed me by the throat, threw the money at me and pushed me up against the car. I was in shock. He continued to yell at me and spit at me. And then, in broad daylight, while people were walking the street, while my friends were watching (they could only see the passenger side of the car, I was on the driver's side, in the street) he assaulted me. He pulled my skirt up, his hands went where they should not, and he assaulted me. I don't know why he did this. Was it to humiliate me? Was it out of anger? Was this his sick plan all along? This moment seemed to pass so slowly. Everything was in slow motion and the sounds I heard, it was as if I was under water. I couldn't make out at the time what I was hearing (my friends were yelling "Orah needs help, Orah needs help") but somehow I got out of his hold and ran for the door of my school. (No, I was not raped, thank The Good Lord) but I was traumatized none the less.

If that trauma was not bad enough, as I reached to open the door to my school, it was already being opened on the other side. And there stood the House Mother. The House Mother who was called to the front door by my concerned friends who knew something awful was going on. And her first words to me...

"Orah, WHY ARE YOU LATE?"

And finally, the shocked look on my face was gone, and replaced by a rush of tears and sobs. How could she berate me at a time like this. For weeks, I have felt no love, no support, no care from this school and it's administration. And I can not subject myself to this treatment any longer.

(And even right now, I am emotionally spent. This is the first time I am sharing this so publicly. And while therapeutic, I need a break. So it looks like this will roll over into a third blog.)

To be continued...

3 have shown Orah a little love:

Shosh said...

OH MY G-D.

RachelZimm said...

Hi Orah, I hope it's okay that I am leaving my first comment on your blog on such a hard post.

I think you're very brave for writing this all out here. I'm kind of awe of it actually. I can't believe what you went through and the kind of after effects it must have had. It is horrible that it happened and even doubly that it was handled in such a manner.

I hope that people who have had things like this happen to them, and also were not taken seriously, will get chizuk from a post like this.

Have a good shabbos

Orah said...

Rachel, I really appreciate you commenting on this post. Especially since you hit the nail on the head about why I am blogging. You will see this at the end of the third and final post. I know that people go through all sorts of things and don't share for one reason or another. But then they typically feel alone, and I know how awful that feeling is. I want them to know they are not alone. Thanks Rachel and come again.