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Nov 10 2010

Bureaucracy Hell in Israel

By at 8:37 am

Have you ever tried "standing in line" at an Israeli post office?

Just days after I moved to Israel, my son got pretty sick. The hospital told us that it might be Leukemia. They also told us that my 10-month-old son wasn’t yet insured in Israel.

So in order to do repeat blood tests, we had to jump through bureaucratic hoops, juggling papers and attitudes, walking a tightrope of exhaustion and fear.

For reasons I still don’t completely understand, the first step was to get some sort of authorization from the post office.

The post office in Israel is a tiny corner of Bureaucratic hell. It’s always crowded. There are always at least 50 people already waiting. And 47 out of the 50 people are always smoking cigarettes and shouting.

We got to the post office 15 minutes before it opened. And there was only one person waiting to get in. Now, in LA this would be great-–just one person ahead of you in line. Hollah! But in Israel, no one believes in lines. Ok, let me qualify that:  The only person who believes in lines is the person who is first in line.  You’ll know him by his stance:  Legs splayed, arms  out, baring anyone from edging their way in front of him. God forbid a woman with a sick screaming baby gets to go first.

Still, I stood as close as possible to this man while others began to gather in front of the post office. 

I was second in line, Dammit.

And as more people encroached on the door, I moved closer to the poor guy in front of me.  He was short and stocky, built like an oil drum. Steadfast and sturdy, he bared the door. I edged closer, no longer caring about personal space or privacy. I crept closer and closer, where  I became intimately familiar with the smell of his skin (cotton, tobacco, and Jean Paul Gaultier).

I could almost feel the tickle of the hairs on the backs of his arms against mine. There was an obscenely irrational part of me that wanted to lick his neck. (Sorry B.!)

Someone tried to push past me.

“If someone cuts me off, I will cut a bitch,” I snarled loud enough for everyone to hear.

At 9:05, the doors to the post office swung open.

Remember the wildebeest stampede in The Lion King? It was like that. Only in Hebrew.

B. was masterful. He literally knocked someone out of the way and pointed to the First Man in Line shouting, “We were here after that guy.”

But of course we didn’t have the such-and-such document we would need to get the approval for Little Homie’s insurance, so we we had to go across town to a larger corner of Beauracratic Hell: The National Insurance Office.

But  sometimes, even in the deepest spasms of Bureaucratic Hell, miracles happen. There are angels to pull you out before you drown in papers and paperclips, choked in the uncertainty of waiting.

When the people at the National Insurance Office heard why we were there, we went to the front of the line.  And none of the people waiting (and smoking and shouting) complained.

In a matter of minutes, with a few quick phone calls and a lot of furious typing, they sorted out what should have taken days, and Little Homie was insured.

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One Response to Bureaucracy Hell in Israel

  1. Maya says:

    So glad it was sorted out eventually! And so glad you found those angels! There is no such thing as “personal space” in Israel LOL
    I hope that your son’s doctors were wrong and it is just a virus. Hugs!

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