Israeli bureaucracy

Some of you like to know what its really like living in Israel. Living here can be …interesting, as you will see.
Example 1:
Naomi has been the “va’ad habayit,” the person who takes care of all the administrative details (i.e. shit) in an apartment building in Israel. This means that she collects money every month from the tenants and pays for the expenses for heating oil for hot water, for the cleaning of the stairs, etc. This has become a real chore since one of the tenants died 4 years ago and her family refused to pay, so Naomi has been involved in a legal action and a bounced check, etc. After 5 years she has transferred the job over to another apartment owner as of Jan 1. In order to do this she had to obtain a form from the official organization that sets the rules for apartments, and get the signatures of a majority of the apartment dwellers. Some of them were resistant, but she did this. Then Naomi and her successor went to the bank to transfer the signature rights on the va’ad habayit account. However, after they waited 45 mins, the clerk refused to accept the signed form, since she wanted it on the Bank’s letterhead. The new va’ad member went to see the manager who ordered the clerk to accept the form. But, then she saw that there was another name on the list of the va’ad members and she said that he had to be present to sign too, but they said it wasn’t necessary since he was remaining on the va’ad, he wasn’t changing. After another argument the new guy decided to take the account out of that Bank and transfer it elsewhere. Only a few hours were wasted. The clerk was not at all concerned that she had lost a client from the Bank.
Example 2:
I receive expenses from the Department where I work at Hebrew University (HU). Each year I have to obtain an exemption form from taxes from Mas Hachnasa (IRS), otherwise they would take 50% in tax and then I would have to reclaim it. I have been doing this every year and in the last two years it has been a formality taking a few minutes to obtain the form. This time when I went to Mas Hachnasa in Netanya they sent me to another office and two guys interviewed me. Without reading the official letter that I brought (in Hebrew) from HU which explictly states that this is for expenses only and not salary, they implied that I was using this as a dodge to supplement my salary. They checked my Israel tax form, and then suggested I submit a list of expenses. I pointed out tha according to their own regulations this was not necessary if the amount of expenses was under a certain limit, which it is. So after an hour they politely told me that I was “a nice Professor” and issued the form.
Example 3:
As a Visiting Professor at HU, each year I receive a letter from the Dean re-appointing me for another year. One of the rights I get for this is the use of the University computer. I received a notice by e-mail that I needed to renew my account before the end of December. I gave a copy to my host and he said he would take care of it, and he told me he did. However, he contacted the Hadassah computer office, but the University has separate offices and the message apparently never got to them. So on Jan 2 my internet and e-mail connection stopped working. I contacted the HU computer Help Desk, and they said they needed proof of my re-appointment, so I faxed the letter to them and they called back and said they were working on it and it would take a few hours. Six hours later it was still not connecting, so I called the Help Desk again. However, now the calls were routed to the Givat Ram campus and not the Mount Scopus campus. They of course said they received no fax, and could not reinstate me. At this point I became angry and acted like an Israeli. I asked to speak to the Manager, I told him it was his fault that they had such a ridiculous system, and that I was going to call the Head of my Institute. He said he would see what he could do. I did call my host, he called his contact in the computer center, and lo and behold they connected me in a few minutes and then I got an e-mail saying that it was for the year.
What is behind this constant struggle with bureaucracy in Israel. I used to think it was the Eastern European or Levantine thinking of Israelis, but now most of the clerks are Russian. One of my friends suggested that by constantly finding faults that prevents further progress this avoids the clerk having to do the work required. The idea of efficiency and helping the customer does not even come into it. Yet, if I said that things have greatly improved over even 10 years ago, like the use of electronic number boards in most public offices, its hard to believe.


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