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Life in Israel - part 6 - work-life balance

July 2, 2016

 

Sharon Moskowitz, the heroine of my first book, Confessions of an Abandoned Wife, has to face the reality of living with a partner who is also married to his job. I don't know what the situation is elsewhere, but I understand from online friends in other Western countries, especially in Europe, that leisure is altogether different there from that in Israel.

 

Israel is an international technological powerhouse - an astonishing fact given that the State of Israel was founded from scratch less than seventy years ago and that it has to deal with a difficult security situation. Israeli companies, for illustrative purposes, account for about 20% of foreign companies listed on NASDAQ, a leading world stock exchange. You may possibly think that this is a huge country with a large number of residents, but the facts are that the territory of the State of Israel is about 10.4 thousand square miles (153rd in terms of area) and it has about 8 million people (98th in terms of population). To reach such impressive achievements, you can't work part time; the majority of employees in high tech companies work long hours and are often referred to as "high-tech slaves."

 

My husband, like Sharon Moskowitz's husband, is an engineer in one of the world's most successful Israeli companies. His regular work day is at least ten hours long, even more at peak times. Luckily, he hasn't often been forced to go abroad for work, but there are many families here in which one spouse is missing a few days every month due to work travel. On the one hand, I’m very proud of my country and my husband, who works in the forefront of global technology. I’m also proud of the fact that one of the patents that the company listed was developed by him, and bears his name. But on the other hand, I’d love to live a life a little more peaceful and harmonious.

 

Not only high-tech workers work so many hours. To be a workaholic is probably an Israeli disease. Ever since I can remember, my father, who is an accountant like me, has always worked twelve-hour days (and he’s  almost seventy years old now). Before my son was born, I myself used to work long hours… at least ten or eleven a day.

 

The foundations of my first book, Confessions of an Abandoned Wife, were built upon this enslavement to work and the resultant lack of recreational activities for the average Israeli worker. I wanted to convey a message, and used a sexy novel to illustrate it. The reality is not so far from the imagination. Quite a few people found it hard to believe that I didn't betray my husband – perhaps because of the details of the story I invented – but this story of an Israeli woman who leaves her husband because he is married to his work is really not hard to believe. It happens here. I personally know someone who founded a successful start-up company and worked continuously until his wife just left him; and this is, of course, not the only story like this.

 

On a more personal level, writing the book was therapy for me. I wrote the book in 2010. My son was four years old, and living with a husband who came home late each day was very frustrating. Happily, I'm married to a man who encouraged me, in my free time, to sit down and pour out my heart. I wrote Confessions in a relatively short time… the story just flowed from me to the keyboard. I loved the character; I fell in love with Manny, the charming doctor. I was just so very emotionally attached to the plot that, at times, I found it difficult to distinguish between fantasy and reality. My journey relieved me of my anger toward my husband and his Israeli employers. I simply learned to accept reality as it was. My son also grew up and I slowly regained my personal freedom.

 

I will never forget the time I was invited to a morning talk show to be interviewed about my new book. Another guest on the show was a clinical psychologist. I spoke with him a bit before we went on air and he said something that I can't forget: "If your husband and all major Israeli industry workers didn’t work so hard, we wouldn’t be where we are now." He was right.

 

An Israeli worker does more work than most other workers in the world. More hours. Less vacation. This is the price, but our reward is the incredible growth and the prosperity of our small country.

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