Saturday, November 25, 2006

Going through the ringer, Israeli style

For the past 11 years since I’ve moved to Israel from Canada, I always wondered why people complained of life being so difficult here. I find tedious day-to-day life similar to any day-to-day life in any other country. OK - I’ve been through the 2nd intifada and it wasn’t any picnic taking public transportation and eyeing everyone coming onto the bus to see if perhaps that person lugging a huge backpack over their shoulder was going to blow us all up. It wasn’t fun when my kids took buses to school then either.

The ping pong game in Gaza and Sederot going on now is terribly depressing, but it seems miles away, as distant as the war in Lebanon seemed from Jerusalem this summer.
My day is routine. I wake up. Get bread and milk for the family. Hubby, my darling chauffeur, drives me to work nearly every morning. I’m busy as heck at my job. I thank God that I do have a job. I run an errand or two before heading home to make dinner, straighten up, listen to my kids’ day, mediate their fights (”SHUT THE HELL UP RIGHT NOW!!”) and crash.

What could be so difficult?

And then we began looking for a home. We have been renting all our lives and never owned anything - so feeling nervous about being a senior citizen in less than two decades and having to dish out my meager pension to a landlord for rent - we decided it was high time to buy.

We’ve been looking at places to buy and rent since August, ever since my landlord who swore to me 5 years ago, he’d never sell our place, decided to sell. He has no buyer, his place looks like shit (and not because of us), it’s small - the only thing going for it is a huge terrace off the living room, and he’s charging a fortune for it. And he’s wondering why he can’t sell the damn place.

We’re hoping to buy a spanking new, larger place, quite a bit cheaper than what he’s charging for his dump and the move-in date is March or April. We’ve begged Mr. Landlord to let us stay on for four more months. After all, who will rent to us for only 4 months? There aren’t people clamoring to get into our place anyway, so let’s continue to pay rent. Hubby even offered him $100 more a month, but like Mr. Pharaoh from Egypt, the man’s not budging, and I don’t know how to bring about plagues and tell him it’s because of his hardened heart. He tells us we have to be out of our place in a week. We haven’t packed a friggin’ thing. He’s coming on Sunday to inspect our place and then decide whether he wants us out or in for 4 more months.
That’s one.

The other is trying to maneuver through the Israeli banking system. I went to one bank. She’s telling me she’ll give me a mortgage based on Prime. There are tons of different types of mortgages and she’s giving me the more risky one. Nah. I go to the next bank. And the next bank. I find them impersonal and they all make me nervous. I find out from one bank that I’m still considered a new immigrant. I can get a special immigrant’s mortgage at a fixed low interest rate for 20 years. The mortgage person is patient with me and speaks to me in English, which I find a relief. Who wants to make important life decisions in Hebrew when it’s not your first language? But I have to go to the Ministry of Absorption to extend this right, which is stamped in my “Immigrant’s ID” booklet for only 7 years instead of the 15 years it is today. And I better get going before the government decides to change the rules again.

Fine. What could be so difficult about that? After all, Israel’s come a long way with the way their Ministry of Interior office is handled nowadays. The place used to be every immigrant’s biggest nightmare 15 years ago. You’d wait to fill out forms which you didn’t understand for an Israeli ID card, Israeli passport, wait 5 hours and then be told “sorry, we’re closing for the day” or they’d decide to go on strike in the middle of your wait. Now, things get processed in a day. Passport expired? Not a problem. Go in the afternoon, wait 15 minutes and voila - you get a stamp with an extention! You’re out of there in a flash. So what could be the problem with the Ministry of Absorption?

Well, looks like they’re back to where the other Ministry was 20 years ago. I called up one number after another and was connected to numbers which didn’t answer and didn’t have voice mail. It was frustrating. I called up the main number.
“Does the immigrant department consist of only one person???” I was totally irritated. The Russian woman assured me it was an entire department.

“Then why isn’t anyone answering??? It’s 10:30 in the morning. One-half hour after their morning break!!” (government employees are well-known for their extravagant and must-have 10:00 breaks)

She proceeded to give me 6 other numbers. I called them all - no one answered.
The next day, all government ministries went on strike. I don’t care. I called them anyway. I pick a number - any number. Someone answers. I’m totally shocked.

“Aren’t you on strike?” I question her.

“Yes” she giggles

“Then can you help me out here?”

And the woman on strike gives me all the necessary information to make the appointment I need to have with them. Go figure.


Deb said...

I would hardly call it a ping pong game with Gaza. It appears to me that Israel is a bully...with the help of the US. It appears to be pretty much a one sided game and I find it horrendously disgusting. I'm angry. Over the years, I have tried to stay impartial and non-judgmental. But now I'm just angry. Still--I thank you for your individual peace efforts. But even that is getting difficult to say...because I'm angry at Israel.

jerusalemgypsy said...

Hi Deb -Israel would not have gone into Gaza like they did had missles not rained down into Sderot every day, terrorizing its citizens. Of course, Israel has the bigger toys so when they do "clean up" in Gaza, there's alot more destruction of lives, etc.

Emah S said...

How lucky of you to reach someone during a strike! I have a hunch they strike now and again so that they can actually get some work done without people knocking down their doors! NOT, I know!

and deb........a bully is someone who picks on someone UNprovoked. not exactly the case here.

Deb said...

"we have bigger toys"....?


Tell yourself whatever you need to tell yourself. I consider you both part of the problem. It's a shame, too, because I used to enjoy and respect this blog.

YES, in Gaza there's a lot more destruction of lives, "etc".

We are talking of innocent lives here, jerusalem gypsy. ALOT more lives... (aka real, women, CHILDREN...snuffed out under the pretext of "retaliation").

Buy another bag and call it good, jg.