I have praised this country many a time in these pages, from the moment I landed at Ben Gurion airport five years ago, up to recently.
Now I wish to tell, both, the Israeli authorities and the Prime Minister, in particular, how difficult, nay, excruciating it is for new immigrants of a certain age to settle here.
Mr. Prime Minister, you want all the Jews of the Diaspora to come back Home, ie, to our mother country, from which Jews were expelled ‘en masse’ more than 2,000 years ago. It is also my wish. But this country’s bureaucracy is appalling. On the one hand, we have the Start-up Nation, second to none, with its amazing inventions and discoveries, in all fields, that benefit not only Israel but the whole world. On the other, you have a system that is as bad as that of an underdeveloped country. Which is daunting and shameful.
Let me describe what I mean. First of all, do you just want Jewish children and young people to immigrate here? If that is so, then they won’t have problems, they will adapt quickly to the ways of this country. It seems though, that, however strongly you claim to the contrary, you do not want the elderly to come here. How many olim hadashim have returned to their country of birth because they find it impossible to settle here?
Take my case. I’m a writer and a photographer of a certain repute, published on the 6 continents. Unfortunately, I didn’t speak Hebrew when I landed here. I followed courses at an ulpan for a couple of years. And yes, I now can run errands, take a bus, order food in a restaurant, and ask basic questions in Hebrew. But no ulpan will ever teach you how to deal with this Soviet-era style bureaucracy.
I’m a senior citizen and wished to spend the rest of my life happily in this country which I really and truly love, in spite of the fact that it doesn’t have any regard or consideration for me. No, I don’t want your pity, I just demand competence. The examples of such incompetence are so numerous, I shall only give you the more striking ones that I have to tackle on a daily basis.
There is an incredible disconnect in the languages. Let me explain. I call the number of one of your ministries. The answer comes in Hebrew, which is logical, then sometimes, I get a number for Russian, ok, and NOTHING IN ENGLISH!!! Tell me, without English, would you Israel be a Start-up Nation??? Yes, sometimes there is a number for English. The Hebrew speaker answers and I ask for an English speaker. I sometimes have to wait half an hour, then I get someone who tells me, ‘no I don’t speak English’, another half hour wait, and that can go on for three hours in a row. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS GOVERNMENT, with all its high-tech and its incredible scientists, can’t you repair this unbelievable mess???
I have a French live-in partner – we’ve been together for over 25 years. He is a ‘tochav‘ who loves this country even more than some Jews, he defends it tooth and nail. He has to renew his residential visa every year. Ok, admittedly. Here again, The Misrad Apnim is a terrifying place. For the last four years, we have had to present the same 13-odd documents, and each time something goes wrong. For example, let’s say that among all that paperwork, we forget one month of electricity bill. WE HAVE TO COME BACK WITH THAT MISSING DOCUMENT AND REPAY another nis 175 for the new appointment. Do you think that fair? I would call it not only petty but indignant.
Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Director of the Misrad Apnim, you’re doing everything to pain me and my live-in partner, to the point that we might envisage leaving Israel. IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT? If not, then DO SOMETHING TO MAKE OUR STAY A BIT MORE PLEASANT FOR THE FEW YEARS LEFT US! Do you realize that this bureaucracy is taking 2/3 of our time? when I expected to enjoy this place and continue writing and taking photos for the best part of my day.
The Israeli postal system – it resembles that of contemporary Congo, where I was born – is just plain awful. I opened a P.O. Box a few years ago in order to receive my books – they have lost sofar 50 books of mine (those I wrote); in one case I paid the requested customs fee, and never got the books or was reimbursed!!! Can anyone imagine having to pay a customs fee for the books one writes and which are not for sale? I have published more than 35 literary books in English, French, and Italian (my work is translated into 15+ languages), as well as 50+ books of photos.
My P.O. Box here in Tel Aviv (the City that never sleeps – I shall add: and doesn’t let you sleep properly, although I love it too) seems to be useless.
The post-office here now works with … 8 private companies. And each time a parcel is announced, it is in Hebrew, naturally – but does no one here speak English??? Isn’t English taught at school??? Here are the names of these firms: HFD, UPS, DHL, GAASH, BAR GROUP, ASM, COURIER SERVICE, E-PARCEL (all claiming, in Hebrew, to have first-class service; for the English, I have to spend an hour on the computer, just to translate and understand a notice !!! – I may have forgotten other ones). On the phone, I have to juggle with each one of them … in Hebrew only, for most of their employees don’t speak the universal language. Tell me, WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THIS MESS TO? This, I presume is the result of an ultra-liberal economy. But even in the United States, which is the capitalistic country par excellence, receiving mail is much easier. Everywhere else I have lived – this is my 4th continent of residence -, I just got my mail and parcels at my P.O. Box. Easy and simple, no headaches. Here, I could die of a heart attack because of this backward system.
Thanks to this incredibly harassing bureaucracy, if we decide to remain here, you will shorten our lives. What a bonanza it is for elderly people who have to endure this!!! FOR GOODNESS SAKE, DO SOMETHING TO ALLEVIATE our tasks!
Now, beloved Israel, do you wish me to live in peace for the few years left, or do you want to drive me so mad that you shall send me prematurely to the other world? There is so much talk of ‘briut’ – which is indeed of the highest quality. Yes, I can personally vouch for it – well, you could take even better care of our health by smoothing out this weighty and nervewracking bureaucratic system.
CAN SOMEONE UP THERE GIVE ME A POSITIVE ANSWER – Mr Prime Minister, and all the respective Authorities? First, because I am now an Israeli citizen, and second, because I am respected all over the world as an intellectual and an artist.
I invite you to consult my main website: www.albertrusso.com –
Here I am not writing only for myself, I am also writing for the thousands of elderly olim hadashim who suffer from this intolerable situation.
Thank you for your kind attention and for answering me as soon as you can.
May I expect a response within a week, COVID or no COVID? The heart doesn’t stop beating because of the pandemic, unless …
Oh, people tell me that writing to you is useless. Shall I bet, or are they right? I do believe there is freedom of expression in our democracy. Of course you are also free to ignore me.