No-one looks forward to having to visit the Tax Office. OK it’s not the dentist, but still it’s one of those things in life that is particularly hard to derive any sense of pleasure from. My feelings of fore-boding were heightened when I learned that the location of the office was in the same building which housed Misrad Hapnim (the Israeli Interior Ministry). Having spent many many long hours in the Misrad Hapnim Visa Department I braced myself for a time consuming and frustrating experience. This was my empirical wisdom at work.

I recently took on a second job and was told that unless I went personally to the Tax Office then I would be taxed at 50% on all my earnings from my secondary employment. That would have negated the whole point of taking on another job so I had no choice. I arrived at the Government Offices Complex and made my way to the 14th Floor. Unlike the Visa Department on the 1st Floor, there were limited security checks and almost no queue.

I took a number and sat down. How relaxed and organised this office is compared to the jungle downstairs in Visas I thought. There were 6 offices, each numbered and each servicing people’s enquiries in turn. The Visa Department downstairs has an average waiting time of about 3 hours, often no place to sit down yet only 4 Officers actually working on all the enquiries they receive.

Within 10 minutes I was sat in front of a very helpful Tax Officer. She spoke perfect English, worked with efficiency and purpose and ultimately provided me with all the documentation I required. A further 5 minutes and I was back out on the street opposite the Azrieli Towers, job done. I was quite shocked.

My contentment at the ease with which I had navigated this area of Israeli bureaucracy soon got me pondering why they can’t make the Visa Department on the 1st floor more like the Tax Office on the 14th floor, a bastion of efficient and friendly service? Conspiracies began whirling in my mind, is the Tax Office efficient because the Government is ultimately gaining something from the service, namely tax revenue? Is the Visa Department such a shambles because they prefer not to issue Visa’s to people without ancestral ties to the Jewish homeland and they therefore try to be as obstructive as possible?

I have no definitive answer as to why some areas of Israeli Government work effectively while the Visa Department drains the will to live out of those unfortunates forced to walk through its doors on a regular basis. One thing I can point to with certainty, it’s nonsensical that the Tax Department has signs in English and Officers who speak English while the Visa Department, which, by definition is dealing with a lot of non-Hebrew speakers, does not. I wonder if it’s just my paranoia or if there really is a conspiracy over at Misrad Hapnim?