Bad Bureaucracy… and the Worst

In 1957 my friend in Rishon had been invited to England to demonstrate techniques in glass-blowing. He was the manager of the Gavish glass-blowing factory in Rishon Lezion at that time. He required a visa from the British Embassy and asked me to accompany him to their offices in Tel-Aviv.

We were very courteously received by a consular official who directed us to the proper department. The gentleman behind the desk stood up to greet us with an outstretched hand and invited us to be seated. He offered us cups of cold water to drink and we gave him the official invitation from Manchester which required a British visa.

He asked my friend how soon he needed it and when was he planning to travel to England. I don’t remember what he told the visa officer but I do remember that the officer suggested that we go out for a cup of coffee at a nearby café and return to the Embassy within an hour.

Over coffee, my friend Rachamim kept talking about the courtesy in the embassy. In a little less than an hour, we returned to the embassy. The visa officer handed Rachamim his Israeli passport with the British visa stamped therein.

For days afterwards he could not stop talking about the efficiency, the courtesy, the kindness he received in the British Embassy.

“Ain davar ka-zeh b’Yisrael. B’koshi b’misrad ha-pnim m’kablim otcha b’adivut v’tzarich l’chakot harbai zman ad she m’kablim ma she ata tzarich”… there’s nothing like it in Israel. The Ministry of Interior personnel hardly extend any courtesy or politeness and you have to wait a long time until you receive what you need.

That was in 1957. I could not have said it better myself. Every country has its own aspects of bureaucracy but it is usually accompanied by a smile and courtesy of the government officials.

Very far from it in our country!   In April of this year, I filed a notarized form from the Ministry of the Interior with a request to receive a copy of my wife’s birth certificate from 1935 in Mandate Palestine.

Now, almost six months later I have received nothing despite the Ministry’s online information page that delivery of document copies usually takes one week

I have telephoned five times and have sent six or seven e-mails asking the reason for the delay. No one had the courtesy to respond to my phone or e-mail messages!!!

Probably since my wife was born in Mandate Palestine in Ramat Gan, the Ministry’s staff had to go to London to search the archives for the original birth certificate.   (Sarcasm intended).

As an example of good government, my son and his Morrocan-born wife were married by an Orthodox rabbi in the United States. Their three children were born there. When my son went to the local municipal hall to request one copy of his marriage license and one copy of the birth certificates for each child, he received them on the spot while waiting for the photo-copies to be handed to him.

Such a thing does not exist in our Israel. While sitting in the Misrad HaPnim office, holding the number for your turn, it is very likely that you will see a young lady sitting at her desk  busy filing her nails and chatting with the woman seated next to her, sipping coffee. They get their paid salaries from the government and could not give a damn about courtesy or efficiency. All that they have to do is to put in their time, do their paper-work and go home.

I would wager that there are other countries whose bureaucracy is terrible but I am sure that our country ranks among the worst.

While we are efficient at hi-tech, weapons production and security, the case of the small individual citizen ranks very low on the scale of courtesy and efficiency. Those two qualities were not manufactured in Israel. They were imported, probably, from Great Britain.

Who knows?  Maybe it’s time to invite the Mandate back.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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