Avi Rockoff

One Morning at the Bank

Author photo/illustration
Author photo/illustration

There I was, in person, seeing Natasha at the local bank branch for the second time in a week. Even once had been a lot. Banking is now done on the app, on which you can chat with a banker remotely. From the day we opened our account, I had not showed up at this branch a single time.

But now I needed a bank check, which must be issued in person. So I had made an appointment and come in two days before, keyed in my ID in the lobby, grabbed the numbered paper the machine spat out, sat down in the waiting area inside, heard my number called, and met Natasha.

Natasha smiled and asked how she could help. I told her. She took down the name of the payee and amount of the check. I signed a paper, clicked a screen that said I had read and understood everything even though of course I hadn’t. A couple of minutes later she gave me the check.

The sign in front of Natasha read:

Author photo/illustration

Service with a smile is on me.

A score of 10 on the survey is on you!

Natasha smiled. She had provided an excellent customer experience, something for which Israeli banks are not famous.

When the app sent me a survey, I gave her a 10. It was the least I could do.

Later that day I learned that the payee had given me an incorrect name to put on the check. So back to the bank I must go.

Two days later, there I was. Natasha smiled, and so did I.

Issuing the check was even faster this time. Finances had not changed, just the name of their recipient. As Natasha was signing and stamping forms, I asked her, “Where did you come on aliyah from, Natasha? Russia? Ukraine?”

She looked up. “Kyrgyzstan,” she said.

“Kyrgyzstan!” I said. “Wow.”

Wikimedia Commons/Author illustration

“Kyrgyzstan had a Jewish community in the capital,” she said. “They even had a Yiddish theater. My father was evacuated there, and he stayed.”

“Where was your father before?” I asked.

“He was from Ukraine,” said Natasha. “He escaped when the Nazis invaded. But his whole family was slaughtered (nitbechu) so he never wanted to go back. We all came to Israel in the early 90’s”

She returned to stamping forms.


The Jewish State stands apart—it surely wishes it did not—because so many of its citizens have intimate personal knowledge of hate-fueled tragedy: terrorist violence, forced expulsion and displacement, murder, mass murder, and of course war after war, each with its suffering and losses. Even those who did not gain such knowledge on their own know others, often many others, who did.

As a result, everyone here shares a narrative: tragedy, renewal, resilience, and icy resolve. This narrative is public and palpable right now, during this terrible war. But it has been there before, repeated and reinforced through the decades, over and over and over.

Everyone knows this, deep in their souls. But not just deep in their souls. Right under the skin of humdrum daily life, there it is. Not only on Yom Kippur, or Yom HaZikaron, or at public demonstrations or learned seminars. Even on an ordinary morning, doing routine business. Scratch the surface and it’s right there, front and center and matter-of-fact: Slaughter. Exile. Aliyah. And please have a nice day, Sir.

The check came out of the printer. Natasha smiled and handed it to me.

I took the check and smiled back. “Lo l’hitra’ot!” I said, brightly, Let’s not do this again.

At home I opened the app and gave Natasha another 10. It was the most I could do.

About the Author
Avi Rockoff came on aliyah with his wife Shuli in March 2022. They live in Jerusalem. His new book, This Year in Jerusalem: Aliyah Dispatches, has been recently published by Shikey Press.
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