Going Mainstream (And Getting Pushy)

Before she began high school in the nearby village of Ma'alot Tarshiha, Luna Khoury-Abed, today 29, hardly ever left her home village, Fassuta, in northern Israel near the border of Lebanon.

And, she didn't speak a word of Hebrew.

Upon her introduction to the "big world" out there, as she puts it, Khoury-Abed grasped the importance of getting to know the Jewish residents of Israel, and integrating with them. Gradually, Khoury-Abed began to learn their language and customs. She found quite a few differences.

After graduating high school, she began to work at the legal department of Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, which isn't far from the border with Lebanon either. Finally, she left northern Israel and rented an apartment in the central coastal city of Netanya. She began studying at a local college, and concurrently worked at the mobile services provider Cellcom and at Laniado Hospital.

"It was important for me to mix with society in general, to see other people," she says. She wanted to narrow, to bridge the gaps between herself and the Israelis around her. "I understood that if I wanted to advance in life, I had to get nearer to the mainstream," she says.

"It starts with tradition. As Arabs we give more respect to others. We wait until we are given the right to speak. We don't push ourselves forward," she says. But from a certain interview she underwent at an evaluation center, she realized that if she waited to be addressed, she'd never get a job. "I learned that I had to push myself, to market myself."

Another difference, according to Khoury-Abed, is that "we don't have" the same cultural values of "career and success."

"Nobody teaches you that through a career, you can develop and grow. On the contrary," says Khoury-Abed.

After getting a degree in behavioral sciences, majoring in human resources, Khoury-Abed was hired by the placement company Manpower. Together with her employers, she has been working on nailing down the barriers that prevent Arab academics from finding work in Israel.