One of the questions that comes up a lot, and generates a lot of fear, is government bureaucracy in Israel. For anyone who has been to a government agency abroad, it is sometimes hard to understand why people think it is worse here — but they do! And they worry about it more. So I would be remiss if I didn’t post something about dealing with it as best as possible.
There a few basic rules that I’ve learned over time living here:
Number One: If you’re going into an Israeli government office cold, even one as basic as the Iriya (municipality) or Bituach Leumi (Social Security) or the Misrad HaOtzar (Finance Ministry) or Misrad HaPnim (Interior Ministry), follow this rule of thumb: Set aside at least half a day in your mind. You will likely hit that half-day mark, and if you don’t, hey, you did things EFFICIENTLY based on your schedule. I guess this rule falls under the category of “expectation modification.” This tip also can be subtitled “patience,” which I know can be a frustrating demand when you really need to get something done.
Number Two: If you have Vitamin P and can use it legally, do so. “Vitamin P” is Protektzia, knowing someone who knows people in a particular agency and who therefore can help you cut through red tape. This does NOT mean bribing people, but rather is based on one of the fundamental principles of life in Israel: Everything, but everything, is based on human relationships. Who you know affects where and how you go. I know it may sound crass, but it happens in Washington too, and everywhere else for that matter. (But again, people think it happens more in Israel, maybe because there is a half a degree of separation between everyone living here.)
Number Three: Write letters, and frequently, if you want to get results. The system is not set up for phonecalls, it just doesn’t work. But the bureaucracy is not allowed to ignore letters, so keep sending them, and eventually (I know cases where this has happened) you will get the response you want and need because they want to shut you up! 🙂
Number Four: Try to find out in advance exactly what you need to bring with you. Israeli bureaucrats love asking you for exactly this and that and the other form, and if you don’t have it, they happily send you away and go on coffee break. So do you yourself a favor, and practice the boyscout’s solemn creed: Be prepared!