I have been accepted to the Middle East Entrepreneur Training program!

Petra, Jordan

Towards the end of September, I discovered a US State Dept.-sponsored training program for Middle East entrepreneurs that was accepting Israeli Arabs, but not Israeli Jews. The program, called Middle East Entrepreneur Training (MEET), had a number of tracks for application, and made it clear that they were particularly interested in female applicants. After verifying that I indeed was a female living in the Middle East, I made a fuss, and thanks to the work of some intrepid journalists, the acceptance conditions for the program were immediately changed, and I applied.

About a month later, I was called in for an interview in some State Dept. offices in Tel Aviv. I gracefully fell down the stairs to our parking lot on the way out, badly twisting my ankle. I almost didn’t go for the interview since I could barely drive, but I decided to press my luck anyway.

What are you most proud of?

The interview consisted of me facing a panel of four anonymous people for less than 15 minutes while they asked me colorful questions. It would have been nice if they had introduced themselves, but later on I found out that one of the panelists was the guy who had been dealing with all the flack from the ruckus about them not accepting Israeli Jews, and despite that he was surprisingly nice.

They asked me the types of questions I haven’t been asked for years, like “What have you done that you are most proud of?” Israelis ask such tachlis (to-the-point) questions when they’re interviewing someone, like “Oh, so you’re from Canada originally. Do you know my friend Dudu? He lived in Ottawa for about 10 months,” that I wasn’t prepared for these American-type questions.

The interview went so quickly that we kind of just looked at each other at the end, so I made sure to fill in the silence by telling them that I had fallen down the stairs on the way there, to give them a better feel for the type of person I am.

You’re lucky number 25!

I guess I did ok, because this past Friday I got my acceptance letter. (Either that, or they had to accept an Israeli Jew now, and I was the only applicant.) The letter said that I was one of 25 applicants who had been accepted out of 900. This made me feel very special. They also said the program had been postponed from May until August. That made me feel very relieved, since it gives me more time to figure out if I will actually go or not.

Why wouldn’t I go? Because it’s being held in Amman, Jordan, and despite the peace we have with the Hashemite Kingdom on paper, the Israeli National Security Council has a serious travel warning against visiting Jordan. Really serious. I mean, they are basically saying “If you are currently in Jordan, you better get the f*** out of there and run for your life.”

In the meantime, I’m hoping to learn some Arabic (Sabah al-hir – that’s supposed to mean “good morning”) and renew my Canadian passport.

Who could possibly hate a Canadian?

(I mean, besides you. And you. Ok, you too. You there, sit down and stop waving your hands!)

Responses (2)

Maya Norton (The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy)

January 9, 2008 10:42 am

Miriam,

That’s excellent news, congratulations. I hope you do go (and report back). Keep in mind that the US State Department is responsible for you and they are the ones who placed the conference in Jordan.

Maya

Miriam Schwab

January 17, 2008 3:50 pm

Hi Maya – thanks so much! I really hope I’ll end up going. People gave me great advice about who to talk to before I go to try to take care of security issues, so hopefully it will all work out ok.

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