31 July 2008


Dust is a funny commodity in Israel. I suppose our proximity to the sea, the desert and a million building sites doesn’t help. Its always amusing to see the shape of objects moved from there place when covered with dust. That was a cup, a pen or a paper clip. I hope that was a peice of fruit.

Stacks of files, manila envelopes and loose papers litter the waiting room, the corridors and every desk and office in the building. This certainly is a government office. Three of every piece of paper. Like Noah on steroids, if you don’t have three you wont have the luxury of losing one and having one spare, I was once told.

And then its my term and I sit before the civil servant who will undoubtedly, in his own way, help me with my problem.

I look into his eyes.

Now I don’t want to be the harbinger of bad news and I certainly don’t want to be the messenger boy that everyone takes a pot shot at so don’t call me Hermes, don’t watch Gallipoli and don’t ask me. The fact is if you don’t know you don’t know and if you don’t ask you won’t know but if you do ask there is very little chance I will tell you anyway.

You need to know and if you don’t I will take complete advantage, but if you ask I will know you don’t know and take complete advantage and if you do know I will argue with you until you start doubting yourself and then you wont know anymore. Either way I will have the upper hand.

So how do you know. Well you could be born here, born into the system that allows you to know or have a fighting chance anyway. Its generally genetic, so if your parents were born that will also stand you in good stead.

If you are an immigrant you might as well have ‘prey’ or ‘frier’ stamped on your forehead. I have no time if you can’t speak the language and have no time if you don’t know the system. I will send you on pointless trips to the post office, unknown government offices entrance 3b, fourth floor, room 206. Then I will help you waist the best part of your week while trying to find your way out.

But you can learn. Always argue even if you know I am right. Always ask for more even if you have everything you need, always be confident, and always understand why you are in front of me and what you want. Never be afraid to ask a 100 times if need be and never do anything without questioning exactly why, when, where and how.
Now with the rise of new Aliyah organizations my job has been made much harder. You may not even have to deal with me but I am there ready to find that document not stamped correctly, ready to notice the 106nis not paid into the post office, ready to justify my own miserable existence.

My father drained swamps, lived in a transit camp and built this country. I knew Ben Gurion, fought in 5 wars and have the right to execute my job to the letter.
I am a dying breed, but the legacy is still being passed down to those underpaid workers with big chips on their shoulders just like me.

I am just trying to do my job, feed my family and make sure this country runs as smoothly as possible in triplicate.

And I could tell all that just from looking into his eyes!