Rosanne Skopp
Rosanne Skopp

Consumerism in Israel: It can be better

This happened in West Orange, New Jersey. To me.

I bought a little plastic jar of lemon juice in our local supermarket. In the midst of cooking a fish dinner, I pulled that unopened little yellow jar out of the pantry, intent on squeezing a bit on the fish. Normally I’d prefer a real lemon but I forgot to buy any and this was just a squirt to finish the fish. No big deal until I went to open and squeeze! It required surgery! No easy opener. I’d need to sterilize a pin and force open the little squirt hole. This I confirmed with the manufacturer whose phone number was affixed. Obviously, they thought that, after a busy day, in the midst of cooking dinner, I’d like nothing better than searching the house for a safety pin and sterilizing it…….just to get less than a teaspoon of lemon juice on my salmon. I’m no surgeon and this couldn’t possibly be the way this large corporate entity hoped to retain my business.

Thus, I phoned them and registered my frustration and anger and hung up, after providing them with my contact information. I didn’t expect much in return but I did expect something. I mean, my complaint wasn’t about a new Lexus, something valuable. It was about a small jar of concentrated lemon juice. But it was frustrating and I was pleased when the consumer affairs person at the company called; they’d like to send me another container of their lemon juice; this would be easy to open. It should arrive in a day.

Update: The little package arrived the next day as promised, with the postage costing more than the lemon juice ever would. They sent me two yellow plastic bottles, each with an easy opening. Did they lose my business? No. They gained it.

Silly little story. I know. I also know it never would have happened in Israel.

I love Israel. Through the proverbial thick and thin, I’m truly one of those with dual loyalties…….and I’m totally proud of that. But, I don’t think Israel is perfect. I know she’s not. But America is far from perfect too. Quite far. Just say Donald J. Trump to remind me of how imperfect America is. But, say Bibi and I’m not going to applaud either.

Our lives with Israel go back over 50 years. All of our children and grandchildren have been brought up with deep connections to the land. Two of our grandsons are permanent residents. Perhaps more will be joining them. Two of our daughters and their husbands, and one grandson, own homes in Jerusalem. More will be joining them. A grandson is now preparing for the army while he completes his program in a yeshiva. We ourselves have divided our time between homes in Herzliya and West Orange for over 22 years. Etc etc etc. Israel resonates with us. And even though no one would call us builders, we are, in our own way, shareholders.

For example, we shared the Yom Kippur War. Our sabbatical on French Hill, then a relatively new neighborhood in Jerusalem, was interrupted by the sound of sirens on that fateful day in 1973. We learned the feeling of impotence. Friends, family and neighbors went off to war and we sat aside like tourists, unable to join the war effort. In our early 30’s we were surely young enough to contribute something, anything, but no one wanted or needed our modest skills My husband volunteered our station wagon and nightly drove soldiers through the dark hills bordering the city. It was too little, but we could do no more except to pray for the injured and mourn the lost, and to feel the ownership that sharing a war can bring. That feeling has never left us. Our dual loyalty remains intact. And when we hear and sing the songs of that era we are moved to tears. “Ani mafteach lach…..I promise you my little girl that this shall be the last of the wars.” If only….

Fast forward. I’m now telling you how proud we are of Israel’s performance with the covid19 epidemic. Little Israel is leading the world in vaccination and mitigation. Little Israel is setting the pace for the most powerful nations. Little Israel is showing the world how to reopen and reawaken a dormant country in a more dormant world. Little Israel, you are amazing!

And this mitigation has been so thorough, so professional, so reliable and responsible. When two members of our family returned to Jerusalem, during the height of the pandemic, they knew they would have to quarantine. But, we wondered, how would the government’s inspectors even know whether they were living up to their part of the bargain. Gain entry and quarantine? Who would know if they didn’t? Well, they were honest and law-abiding citizens, as I knew they would be. But lucky for them that they were! Some might think a cell phone can go anywhere. Who might know that instead of sitting in an empty Jerusalem apartment they could be in a restaurant in Tel Aviv or on the beach or anywhere else in the country? The agents of the government that’s who. They were always two steps ahead. They arrived frequently, without advance notice, without making physical contact. Someone would ring the doorbell and ask our relatives to step out on their merpesit, terrace. These were unscheduled and random. No particular day or time. Just enough to convince anyone in violation that they could, would, and should be caught. Our guys were afraid to even take out the garbage, for fear of a quarantine checker. Little Israel had it all figured out.

So, dearest Israel, why in this unparalleled show of competence and organizational skills can’t you change the location of your customer’s bank branch? The high-tech wonder of the world, Israel, home to amazing and brilliant techno-wizards, billionaires and visionaries, has no one to successfully move your trifling little bank account. Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim. Name your bank. It doesn’t matter. You will speak with a manager. You will change your miserable password on demand. You will do everything they tell you to, and, in the end, you won’t have a password and your bank account will be right where you started. Within my own family this scene has been played out numerous times. It’s absolutely maddening.

One son-in-law tried and tried and tried and then he enlisted my husband’s help. I can’t tell you how many trips my husband made to Bank Leumi in Herzliya while I double-parked. He failed to accomplish anything. Solving a simple issue is just not possible within the Israeli banking system. And do you know why? Because there are no simple issues in Israeli banking. I now believe that only God can make a tree, and change your bank branch in Israel.

Lest you think this is an anomaly, stop thinking! In our family, these kinds of things happen to us repeatedly. Your meager little bank account can’t be controlled. You’ve failed. If you want to change your address, don’t move if it will require modifying your bank account. If you want to use your nifty remote account, especially if you need a new password, give up now. You can’t win this one, no matter how good your computer skills are. And if you want to forward your account information to your home in America, please remember it’s not worth the grief. You cannot win.

Israel is so many wonderful things. It’s just that consumerism is not one of them. Banking headaches are only the tip of the iceberg. Is there anyone who thinks I’d be awaiting a new little yellow lemon juice delivered to my home in Herzliya? It would never happen. Refunds are a form of torture and complaints are mostly ignored.

Dear Israel, it’s time to lead the world again. I love you and I want you to be perfect! You’ve conquered the tough stuff. Now it’s time for the mundane.

About the Author
Rosanne Skopp is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of fourteen, and great-grandmother of three. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and travels back and forth between homes in New Jersey and Israel. She is currently writing a family history.
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