Friday, August 27, 2010

PART THREE. Business in Israel. Introduction.

Warning: this section can be dangerous. If you already have negative attitudes about aliyah or life in Israel, what you read now might reinforce your prejudices.

So you need to understand the context here.

Stated briefly, aliyah contains three contexts--moving,  immigration and change. If you do not understand that, you will misinterpret what you see here, and mislead yourself!

 I know what I'm talking about, because I've already fallen into the same trap. In the past, when I have heard others talk about life in Israel, my reactions were, "how stupid they are, and how difficult they make it for us; good thing I'm staying here."

But it is a falsehood.

It's a lie; not a deliberate lie, but something dangerous, because it can (falsely) keep you from coming "home".

Here's why:

Before we left America for Israel, several events and actions had to occur: two children had to move out, another child had to prepare to come to Israel with us, and one child had to prepare to remain in Squrrel Hill; in addition, while we we helping the children,  my wife and I had to downsize the house and then sell it, change banks, reconstruct our US cell phone plan, upgrade our computers to accomodate the different means of communication we wanted to use in Israel, get through the moving process, and change various insurance policies, to reflect our new realities.

This is a lot to do within the last few months before aliyah, but it put us in position to learn--dramatically-- that most of the nightmare stories we have heard about when moving to Israel are, essentially, misleading.

Why? Because we ran into the same kinds of  'Israel' problems and frustrations on this side of the ocean.

In America.

For example, one bank told me they could set up an account for me that would do exactly what  I needed. Delighted, I went through the long and detailed process of setting up the account, working closely and painstakingly with the bank manager in charge of that kind of banking. I was very pleased. Problems that I had thought would occur would now be prevented. Life would be simplified.


Then, just before we left Pittsburgh to begin our new lives, I discovered that this bank account was not as flexible as it had been described, and the fees were higher and more numerous than I had expected. Plus, because it was a special type of account (the reason the manager had gotten involved to set it up), the paperwork had not been done properly. Twice.

This stuff is supposed to happen in Israel, not America. In fact, I am convinced that if it had happened in Israel, the screams of frustration would have been heard all the way back in Pittsburgh.

Wait. The screams are heard all the way back here, because this is the kind of thing that new olim write about on oleh chatrooms.  All the horrors that happen to them over there are laid out in front of us every day, almost uncensored.

What is one on this side of the world supposed to conclude?

But the truth is, problems of this sort also happen in America.

Same as in Israel.

While our aliyah plans--and related problems-- were unfolding, a daughter  who had moved to another--much larger--city became frustrated because the internet company she had signed a contract with (a household name) kept telling her one thing, doing another, and left her with no internet service--for a month. And they billed her for it.

 That stuff only happens in Israel, right?


Her problem happened in America.

I canceled my own internet service before I moved. Two months later, I discovered that the company was still billing me, and they sent a notice that I was two month in arrears.

This only happens in Israel, right?

 How do I know this happens in Israel? I read the chatrooms. Recently, there have been a number of new olim writing that they keep getting billed for services they have cancelled.

Same as happened to me in America.

But reading someone else's frustrations can be misleading, and it can provoke us to a wrong conclusion: "Wow, they are really something over there, aren't they. It's a good thing I'm still in the USA".

Well, guess what?

Same things happen in the USA.

No different.

During our final weeks in Pittsburgh, the list of businesses behaving badly and/or stupidly here, in Pittsburgh, seemed to go on and on, one stupidity more outrageous than the last one. Even the sale of our house--the biggest issue we faced--had the makings of a classic nightmare scenario; indeed, it was only through the efforts of a quality real estate agent that kept that from happening.

The cell-phone companies, the American movers, the insurance companies, the vendors who said they'd help us downsize-- you name it, we ran into one problem after another.

This stuff only goes on in Israel, right?

Wrong again.

The constant is not that aliyah is a nightmare. The constant is that this context--moving, change, immigration--creates problems. And what happens when you get problems? You complain.

Americans love to read about other people's complaints: sell a refrigerator that works perfectly, and the purchaser tells six people; sell a refrigerator that's got problems, and the whole world hears about it, right?

Trouble is, we are not dealing with refrigerators here. We are dealing with aliyah. We are talking about Jews asking, where do I belong?

 Well, first, we belong home--Israel; and second,  stupidity is not geographically limited. The same garbage we have all heard about taking place in Israel, happens here, too.

Problem is, in my opinion, we are all too human. We don't think about context. All we think about is what's in front of us.  We forget context. All the oleh knows is, s/he got to Israel and the bank messed up, or the internet service wouldn't work--or both . Therefore, we conclude, aliyah can be a nightmare.

That, however, is a falsehood.

Our own pre-aliyah experiences here in America prove that.  Of course, I do not mean to suggest that aliyah has no difficulties. That is not what I'm saying. My point is, rather, that aliyah is truly a common human experience that is shared by anyone stepping into this context--change, moving, immigration.

So when you read in this blog about stupidities--or, at least, what I'm going to label, "stupidity"-- please remember that I am simply writing about the human reaction to change.  I hope you can see it the same way. My children, in the places they have moved to, here in the USA, saw the same "stupidities", right here in America.

I'm just writing about Israel.

So don't be mislead. Don't be fooled. Read these vignettes, and laugh; but remember. It isn't any different from what happens in America.

But wait. It is different. It's aliyah.

Remember that. Because the final story here is not about problems. It's about "going home".

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