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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Helpful Aliyah tip

I've been an Israeli citizens for a few years now, so I feel like it might be time to start giving back... in the form of lessons to those who might be getting roughed up by the well-entrenched Israeli bureaucracy. 

For the sake of getting off on the right foot, I'll start with arguably the most important rule when navigating the country's sprawling maze of semi-functional agencies: Avoid the information kiosk at all costs!

In any sane country, each and every government office, hospital and clinic would have a well-informed man or women sitting at the information desk, ready to greet new arrivals and direct them to the correct office and answer basic questions about what goes on there.

But for some reason, the people manning most Israeli 'information' desks seem to have been chosen at random off the street moments before the doors are opened for that day's business.  Seriously... that's the only reasonable explanation for their blanket incompetence that I've been able to come up with.

Other than handing out numbers (which could easily be accomplished by an unmanned wall-mounted number dispenser such as they have in bakeries and butchers) Israeli information specialist don't seem to be required to actually possess any helpful or accurate information.  In fact, if personal experience is any indication, their primary role is limited to knowing how to say 'no' in several languages and/or direct as many people as possible to incorrect locations... preferably in other buildings far, far away.

To be fair, I've found that once you manage to bypass the information barrier desk, the people inside are almost universally helpful and well-informed.  You just have to have enough 'chutzpah' to poke your head into a couple of offices in order to get the directions or information you were looking for.

Last, but not least... the three golden rules for understanding Israeli bureaucrats*:

1.  No means maybe.

2.  Maybe means yes... but I need a reason.

3.  Yes means OK but I can't tell you exactly when.

Don't thank me... I'm a giver.

* I heard this on our pilot trip the year before we made aliyah.  It has helped us on countless occasions!


Posted by David Bogner on August 7, 2007 | Permalink


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My two best friends made aliyah just this past week...I think I'm going to have to forward them every link to every post you've written in the past week, as I'm sure they would be enormously helpful to the new olim.

I hope somewhere in the 'sphere, someone's writing posts about helpful tips on how to deal with missing your friends when they make aliyah (which I'm, obviously, 100 percent in favor of).

Posted by: Erica | Aug 7, 2007 3:01:13 PM

Sound advice.

If I may, I'd like to add another Golden Rule Of Navigating Israeli Bureaucracy:

"The first trip is only a reconnaissance mission." -- a.k.a. "Any task you wish to accomplish will require, at minimum, two trips to the relevant agency/office."

I would argue that this is even more important than the "(mis)information desk", because it puts you in the right frame of mind before you even get there. When you go into it knowing that you will have to come back anyway, you are much more relaxed.

Then, when you come back, it goes much faster because you already know the system.

Posted by: wogo | Aug 7, 2007 3:12:22 PM

Wogo took the words right out of my mouth! Go into the first trip with the mindset that you are going in order to find out what paperwork you need and with whom you should be dealing. This frame of mind significantly reduces stress. And, hey, if it turns out that you find the right person and have all the right paperwork the first time, it's a pleasant surprise!

Posted by: Sarah | Aug 7, 2007 3:45:35 PM

See, that's the magic word. In a land where making a freyer of oneself is an official deadly sin, chuzpe is the legitimate means to save your face the graceful way.

Posted by: Account Deleted | Aug 7, 2007 4:52:58 PM

Hi David,

*** How does IRS translate? ***

LOL ;o)


Posted by: Maksim-Smelchak | Aug 7, 2007 6:29:22 PM

Maksim-Smelcha: IRS translates [shudder!] to mas hachnasa....

Posted by: zahava | Aug 7, 2007 8:00:11 PM

Except for Mortgage banks where

1. No means never.

2. Maybe means yeah right

3. Yes means nothing if you don't have it in writing....


Posted by: David | Aug 7, 2007 9:51:38 PM

Hi Zahava,


"IRS translates [shudder!] to mas hachnasa...."

*** Is that related to the Hill of Evil Omens in Jerusalem where the U.N. used to be located? ***

LOL ;o)


Posted by: Maksim-Smelchak. | Aug 8, 2007 1:16:45 AM

I'm packing my "savlanut" (patience) and sense of humor as I type!

Posted by: Rachel | Aug 8, 2007 5:00:00 AM

David, I'll keep your tips handy on my quest tomorrow to Misrad Hapnim and Misrad Haklita. A double whammy!

Posted by: Esther Miriam | Aug 8, 2007 8:36:45 AM

They should have just thrown me into the Negev instead of saying "NO"!!

Posted by: Rami | Aug 8, 2007 4:02:27 PM

My wife and I were at the misrad hapnim (ministry of the interior) afew years ago. While my wife was talking to the clerk, i noticed an interesting memo on the clerks desk. it was a list of words and phrases that the clerks were not allowed to use anymore. I don't remember all of them, but some were hilarious for example:
"shut up"
"thats your problem"
"you're lying"
"I cant help you"
" thats not my job/ responsibility (tafkid)"
Its good to know that at least some of the ministries are trying to improve themselves;-)

Posted by: anchorite | Aug 9, 2007 6:31:29 PM

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