Israel Stories

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Office

Corruption, jobs for the boys, nepotism and proteksia. I really wished this wasn’t the recipe by which local government was run. But, you know, when I made aliya I had hoped to leave all that behind. Didn’t think it was like that in the UK? It is, but they are just better at hiding it and aren’t so arrogant. Oh, and the chances of being related to anyone is much slimmer.

I wanted to live my life in Israel avoiding all of this corruption, but you kind of get sucked in. Don’t be a frier, they said. Don’t be naïve, that’s the way things are, just go with the flow.

The office was dark, overcrowded, windowless and reeked of cigarette smoke. It was housed in a portable cabin, set in an idyllic setting overlooking the hills around Bet Shemesh.

“Shame you can’t move your desk outside,” I said, straining to make conversation and trying not to be ignored by the woman ignoring me from the opposite side of the desk.

In fact, as I sat at this particular civil servant's desk, not only did she blank me, but proceeded to make calls to her family, make a coffee and generally do everything in her power to deal with the most mundane things, avoiding any chance of helping me.

As I sat watching her line up paperclips on her desk in size order I felt enough was enough. First I moved two paperclips that were clearly out of order and when I finally had her attention we began to communicate.

“What do you want?” she snapped; I had obviously spoiled her otherwise very interesting day.

“It's about school registration.”

“What’s about it?” she snapped again. Well that question took me by surprise. I noticed she wasn’t making any attempt to look at her computer, gather any forms and tell me I needed to make eight trips to eight different offices and spend half my day paying money into the post office.

“I want to register her for………..” It wasn’t worth continuing. We both knew that as soon as the clock struck eleven, one of us would turn into a pumpkin and come back the next day.

I fingered my list of the who’s who in Bet Shemesh, sort of ammunition in case she tried to cause trouble. I had the names of the deputy mayor, the guy in charge of this and the guy in charge of that. His mother and sister and long lost uncle’s names. But of course I didn’t want to stoop to that level.

“Look, can we get things moving I need to get to work.” Another glare, she looked at me, staring deep into my eyes. A puff of smoke nearly blinded me. She got up and filled her cup with water. After a minute she returned to her desk.

“Name,” she demanded. “Cardash, Jeremy,” I answered as the clock struck eleven.

She carried on talking. Great, she hadn’t noticed the time.

“Cardash,” she paused and thought. "You have a relation who is a dentist."

“Yes, that’s right.”

“You know we are distantly related. My uncle is your cousin's brother-in-law.”

I sat there very confused. Was that good? What was she getting at? Then she noticed the time.

“Look,” she said, “Its after eleven, you’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

I looked at her with my best puppy dog eyes readying my list of who’s who.

“You know what,” she said looking around, “Since you’re a cousin,” she whispered, “I am going to do you a favor.


  • Oh, come on, JC - what fun would the life here be without connections (ksharim)?

    By the way, a short lesson in Hebrew: in this case you stumbled not on what you call protexia, but on what is called "kesher" (connection). As the saying goes: "If you have ksharim, no need for protexia".

    Now let's deal with the Russian part of the story. "Protexia" does not convey the true phonetics. It should be "protektsia".

    Anyhow, it was a great story.

    By Blogger SnoopyTheGoon, At 7:59 PM  

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