If you have not visited an Israeli post office, then you have missed quite a memorable ride in the rollercoaster of the Israeli way of life.

I had one last week and I am still entertained by its recollection. Let me share it with you.

The notice regarding a package awaiting me at the post office had arrived several days earlier. I had been waiting for it for over two months and had almost given up on it.

“It is the Israeli post office that you should blame for the long wait,” some friends who had ordered a similar item from the same company advised me. “The service is just terrible.”

Knowing, however, how efficient and serious the postal service is in following the guidelines of returning unclaimed packages, I decided to go and promptly collect it.

“And what a better time than lunch time?” I thought to myself as I was returning from work. “I will probably just cruise through the registered mail counter, go home have a bite to eat, rest and go to my afternoon meetings.”

I should have recalled the wise Yiddish saying, “A mentsch tracht un Gott lacht” (A person plans and G-d laughs) for the second I set foot in the post office, I realized how true it is. “Number 399 to window number 8,” a soft voice announced. I looked at my slip. It said 451.

“It will move fast,” the optimist in me thought. I decided to wait. And this is where the fun began. All around me, people, who, like me, believed that they were beating the rush hour at the post office, were complaining. And if there is one matter we, Israelis, are good at, in case some of you did not know, it is the art of complaining! Each one became a “mavin” on how to run the post office, how to improve its system and make it more efficient.

“You should come here at 6:00 p.m.,” one frustrated customer suggested. “That’s when they lock the door and the clerks start speeding up.”

“Someone should speak to the manager,” another lady suggested,  “this is simply scandalous.”

I volunteered.

“Can I speak to the manager?” I approached one of the counters where a lovely lady welcomed me with a kind smile. “Sure,” she answered. “I will find her when I go to the back.”

“Please do not disturb the clerk,” a woman who was standing close by nervously squashing the numbered slip in her hands, reproved me. “The more we bother her, the less time she has to serve us and I am in a hurry. I have already waited here for over an hour.”

I returned to my place and sat down. I studied the display board above. It barely changed

Thirty minutes later, I went back to the counter.

“We are still looking for the manager,” the lovely lady with the kind smile told me before I was able to utter a word.

“Madam, I asked you not to detract the clerk from her work,” the nervous lady reminded me. She was one number ahead of me.

I decided to go back, observe the others and enjoy the show. After all, there was nothing else I could do and salvation seemed near. Some were still making suggestions, others stood up and left, tired of waiting. Others yet simply learned to live with it and sat patiently.

“Four hundred and fifty to counter 7,” the close to liberating soft voice announced. I stood up and moved closer to the counter that a not-so-friedly clerk occupied. The nervous lady ahead of me had already handed in her notice and was waiting for her package. Ten minutes later, the not-so-friendly clerk finally returned empty handed. “Your package,” she informed her in a stern voice, “was not claimed within the required time so it was sent back.”

I did not know whether to cry or laugh. I only prayed that mine was still  somewhere there.

I handed in my notice and continued to pray. My prayers were answered. Five minutes later, the not-so-friendly clerk showed up with my package.

I left the post office and looked around me. The sun was shining. My fellow Israelis were going about their daily pursuits. Young children were playing and laughing. I was Home in the place I love more than any other. Everything else, the waiting, the frustration, the complaining, the hardship suddenly dwarfed. The visit to the post office became just another memory, just another adventure in a Land where life is never boring.