The beginning of the school year and the upcoming Halloween remind me a teacher who used to scare me. Ms. E, my 9th grade English teacher in Israel was a crazy American lady who put to shame the local bluntness and chutzpah. It was my first year in the public school, after 8 years in an ultra orthodox school where teachers were gentle and soft-spoken, and meeting her was quite a culture shock for me. She never kept her honest opinion from us the students, never cared for being sensitive or politically correct; after all, she was in Israel – the land of the free…tongues. The most terrifying part of her class was when she returned our paperwork or exams. She used to look at the paper in front of her, read the student’s name, scream: “Zero”, “Zilch”, “Nil”, “Yuck”, and/or “Efess” (zero in Hebrew), and toss the paper in the air. We picked our papers off the floor. If that was her technique to control disobedient and trouble prone students it definitely worked. We were scared of her.
After one of her traumatic classes, I went to the school library to relax. I told the librarian, who was also my cousin’s wife (small town), about this crazy teacher. She laughed and told me a story that gave me a new perspective on the situation. Ms. E was married to a Mossad agent who was rarely home due to his active duty. She functioned as a single mother most of her marriage life. There were periods of time when her marriage was based on random phone calls from anonymous places. There were also uncountable times when she expected him to come home and received instead a note that he had to go somewhere. One of those times was the last straw for her. She called the Mossad headquarter and said that if her husband is not home in the next 30 minutes she will file for a divorce. Shortly after this phone threat, a helicopter dropped her husband off on their rooftop. After hearing this story, I didn’t feel bad for being scared of her – I was in good company.