I live between two distinct cultures. One part of me lives in America. I consume American culture by the boatload, I try to keep abreast of the politics, economics, news, and mass media. In ideology I empathize most closely with an open democracy, in which religion does not have a part (while it has a very important place in my personal life). I believe in the rights of the individual, sometimes to the extreme.
The other part of me lives in Israel. The culture here is diametrically opposed. I abhor many of the advertisements, simply for lacking creativity. Fast food means going to a cafe. I realize that many people here are not used to global business or business practices, and it is taking them time to learn about customer service. Many have actually learned amazing customer service, by simply drawing the customer into their extended family. But people are here are much more open about asking very personal questions to people they just met 5 seconds prior. I have become Israeli enough to ask people that I met a few hours earlier how much they earn in a month. We are all family anyways .
A few days ago, I had someone who does some work for me at my office, who is currently seeking a new job. I printed out his CV (resume) for him, read it, and made some minor punctuation and grammatical changes (in Hebrew for an Israeli) on it. I mentioned that is still shocking for me to see that people place their marital status on their CV’s. (Parenthetically, I am also shocked when firms place that they are looking for someone between 25 and 32 on want ads. Ageism is illegal here, but it is widespread.)
As I conveyed my reaction, my friend looked at me quizzically. He was flabbergasted, and stated that it is very important to know if the applicant is married. When pushed, he was hard-pressed for a substantive answer.
Then today, I read an article online entitled, “Steer clear of these 10 illegal job interview questions”. In it I read things that are second nature to me, but are extremely foreign to people living here.
Of course, as Jewneric.com is about the Jewish Voice, one of the most apropos illegal questions in the article is the following:
#7: Do you observe Yom Kippur?
You canâ€™t discriminate on the basis of religion, so this question is illegal, as would be asking about Good Friday, Ramadan, or the Solstice. If youâ€™re concerned about the candidateâ€™s availability, you could ask whether he or she can work on holidays and weekends, but not about the observance of particular religious holidays.
It is most poignant as I was recently in a meeting where an individual was asked if he worked on Friday (in Israel, similar to Sunday in America), and he said, “I also work on Shabbat and even on Yom Kippur,” in an attempt to ingratiate the clients that he will do anything for them. It didn’t help.
For this posting I used the title “Illegal Questions,” trying to encompass both socially unacceptable and legally unacceptable. A public official in Tel Aviv, who also runs a large company, informed me last night that he has never looked at the marital status of a job applicant, because it is simply irrelevant.
I am not sure what is considered taboo here in Israel yet.
Relevance is relative. Just something to ponder.