A visit to the bank

This is like one of those pages from the elementary Hebrew books that most of us have tried to learn from. You know, “A visit to the Bank” or the “clinic”, or the “doctor”, or the “tax office.”
This started when, as usual, I received a form in the mail from a company that was all in Hebrew and was indecipherable to us. I did not recognize the name of the company and the form had numbers of shekels on it. So after a few days I decided to call the number on the top. Of course, there were many options to choose between, none of which I understood, so I dialed “0.” The first thing I asked was to speak English, but the woman on the other end ignored that and asked me for my identity number (teudat zehut) so I decided to go with the flow. I asked her what the form was for, and she quickly explained that it was a retirement account that I had when I worked at the medical center (which I left 7 years ago), and I could now withdraw it. She said “take it to the Bank” and that was that. I was pleased with myself that I had accomplished this in Hebrew.
So I went to my Bank, where our usual clerk (pakid) who speaks English said that there was no part of the form for her to fill out to transfer the money. So I asked her to call the number on the form and check, and she did and they told her that I have to take it to Bank Hapoalim, only they can transfer the money. I am sure the person I spoke to did not tell me this.
So off I went to Bank Hapoalim, and since I did not know what to do I was directed to the manager, a nice woman who spoke some English. She listened to me and looked at the form and in a mixture of Hebrew and English told me that I need a letter from my former employer to release the money. I was taken aback, but I said I left there 7 years ago, and its my money! In case there was a misunderstanding she took me to a clerk who spoke English. He explained this to me again, and I registered my objection. I said this was typical “bureaucratic nonsense,” and I asked them to call the number on the form to check, since they had told me all I had to do was go to the Bank and transfer my money.
The Manager then asked another of the clerks to call the organization, and meanwhile asked me to go with her to get a number that you get at the entrance of all offices in Israel, but since I am not a member of this Bank I had to enter my teudat zehut number into the computer. Then I sat a while during which the clerk who was supposed to make the call did other things. But, eventually she returned to her desk and made the call, and then announced that I did not need the letter!
So they directed me to another clerk, who actually did the transfer, and the money will be in my account soon! I tell you this story to show how things have inmproved in Israel since we were here 20 years ago! Then they would have insisted on the extra letter, they would not have called the company, and they would have required me to return another time. I know its not up to the standards of the USA yet, but we’re getting there. The amazing thing is that they were polite too.

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