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    Why do Israeli services treat the public as the enemy? – opinion

    The following article by Rabbi Raymond Apple originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post on 14 August, 2020.

    Basi, my youngest grandchild, sent us a lovely card from Australia wishing us a nice Shavu’ot. Unfortunately for Basi (and for us) the card didn’t arrive until after Tishah B’Av.

    At least we didn’t have to traipse to the post office to pick it up, that is, if we could find where the nearest post office is now located.

    The postal system seems to have done (almost) all it can to make life difficult for the public – few post offices, few deliveries, endemic tardiness and basic unconcern with people.

    The fact that citizens of other countries complain about the postal system in their countries is no consolation. Yes, I know that many people (me too) use email and social media instead of posting letters, but if the postal system – anywhere, everywhere – upped its game it could regain trust (and business).

    It could start with training its officials to be the welcoming front-of-house persons, making the public feel welcome.

    It’s the banks too. Phone the call number of (say) Leumi and no one seems to want you. The switchboard person sometimes tries to help you and sometimes doesn’t. When I wanted to find out about Internet banking I got first one, then another son-in-law (their Hebrew is better than mine) to speak on my behalf.

    The person they spoke to took a long time to say basically one thing: “Tell him to go to the branch!” They were uninterested to be told I was elderly and therefore high-risk.

    One son-in-law said, “If he were 105, would he still have to go to the branch?”

    The answer was yes; anything to pass the buck.

    I am not 105 and I succeeded in making an appointment and going to the branch, but neither I nor my wife and daughter who came too, felt that we really mattered.

    All very disconcerting. Years ago when I lived and worked in Australia I told a certain rosh yeshivah that I was planning to make aliyah but was worried about earning a living. The rosh yeshivah said, “That’s not going to be the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that in Australia you are a somebody and in Israel you will be a nobody.”

    The truth is that I do not have a personal problem about being a nobody (otherwise I would not have retired). I am not especially concerned about myself but about every Israeli. We all seem to be nobodies – at the bank, at the post office, wherever we confront officialdom.

    Of course, officials are also nobodies outside their day jobs and maybe they are giving their own back to the system.

    Part of the problem is a lack of sense of humour.

    An American firm is trying to get me to use them to self-publish a book. They call me at dinner time and a slow drawl says, “I… am… looking… for… Doctor… Apple.”

    I say brightly, ”You’ve found him!” Not a glimmer of a smile. Let someone laugh at my silly jokes – that is, treat me like a person – and I am their friend for ever and may even get them to publish my manuscript. That is, if they don’t need hefty subsidies.

    The front-of-house program has to start at the top. When the former Australian prime minister John Howard was in Israel last year, he spoke at the Australian Embassy’s Battle of Beer Sheba ceremony and began his speech with some nice words about me. Later in the morning he told me, “I meant what I said about you.”

    I replied, “I know you did. Thank you so much!”

    If Israel’s national leaders could find a front-of-house way to practice niceness to people we would all feel better. They would too. And it would seep into the banks, the post offices, everywhere.

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