Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Cutbacks or not, you get the service… who needs more?

On a sweltering hot day with my bra showing through a soaked cotton shirt after a gruelling walk and run for the bus, I arrive at   the fancy Kupat Cholim Medical centre in Tel Aviv . I guess I was also feeling unloved, as I was about to have a small operation and had not brought any back up, although there had been offers I wanted to be independent, everyone around me is so busy.

The guy at the  main entrance was charmingly helpful and directed me to the lower floor where I was to have my surgery.

My mood began to improve, the shirt was drying off in the air conditioned breeze and I stroked my gold card through the machine, received a number and sat waiting with a seemingly quiet selection of like minded folks..

Five minutes before my time I am asked by a dour nurse to go into a room take of all my top garments and jewellery,don the gown provided(what a relief) a mob cap to cover my wet locks and some socks to cover my feet. So far so good but still not a smile from anyone. “The Doctor is a bit late please wait”.

Lucky for me I was  his first patient. The nurses are busy doing what they do and eventually I am called into the operating theatre. I must mention here that everything was pristine not at all like the old days when everyone smiled and chatted but the facilities were nigh on primitive and one sat like sardines in a waiting room on benches or hard chairs without any real information about anything. One thing though  in those distant days there was usually a corner for helping oneself to tea or coffee or someone coming round with a trolley of refreshments.

The doctor breezed in and I smiled   in recognition  as he, had examined me beforehand and invited me as it were, to the operation.

He explained briefly what was to happen as he plunged the  hypodermic syringe into the designated spot on my face.

The operation was more nerve wracking than I   had imagined. It was a on a sensitive place on my face, no one even said “relax” as if I were to know how to behave. Could it be that I am the one person who has never before had facial surgery?

Fortunately, I do Yoga so the deep breathing always helps, otherwise I would have been tensed up like a steel ball.

I feel cutting,smell burnt flesh and finally stitches, the operation is completed. The Doctor who then handed me a paper said “I haven’t got time to explain things to you I am here for the surgery, someone outside will give you details and  come  in a month for the “path” results.” No smile, no nothing also from the nurse who led me out.

A more pleasant woman, but still without a smile told me to sit in room number eight…where I had left my belongings, locked in a nice bedside cabinet. Would, there have been a “bedside”   manner?.

“We will call you in 20 minutes and then you can go”…and disappears. No one is anywhere. Do I dress or not, where is a glass of water? I am really groggy but no one seemed to notice. Just then I see a beautiful, bored looking nurses’aid who had been wandering about looking for something to clean and I ask her if I should dress? She looks around for someone else and says” I don’t know”. Still no smile I say something that amuses her and her face lights up I then say” thank you it’s the first smile I have had since I arrived”.

Then the “more pleasant” lady returns hands me the instructions, changes my rather clumsy plaster for a smaller neater edition and gives me instructions about how to deal with the wound and when to remove the stitches. She then matter of factly sends me to the reception to arrange an appointment for the “path” results.

I queue at reception and another straight faced human being throws a date at me and says “that’s the earliest  otherwise you have to wait till October.” Before I get my pen out   she says “I am printing it out” Thanks I say but why can’t you smile?” She snarls “I have given you service what else do  you want?” I answer” we come here sick and afraid is it too much to expect a smile or a compassionate word”. I added “I have been coming here for years and always have been impressed by the friendly approach of Kupat Cholim staff”. Today was the exception or was it.?

I look at the people around, it seems many are old and some have dead eyes, for a moment I feel that I am in one of the movies where people arise from the dead. The woman next to me in the queue is booking for surgery. I say to her “they are very efficient but don’t expect a smile” she looks at me with contempt and says ”Isn’t it enough to get service”?

About the Author
Zelda Harris first came to Israel 1949, aged 18. After living through the hardships of the nascent state, she returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.