Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tense times in Israel


Yesterday I stood in this line outside the Be'er Sheva branch of Bituah Leumi, Israel's social security institute.
It was like being squished inside a microcosm of Negev society.

With the spike in terror attacks in Israel these last several months, everybody is more tense than usual.
So one older woman told off two teenagers who were sneaking to the head of the line.
In heavily-Russian-accented Hebrew she said, "You have no respect for old people standing here in the hot sun for half an hour, that you push ahead of us?!"
In Arabic-accented Hebrew the boys stood their ground and lied, "It's OK, we have a number already."  (There are no numbers at this stage.)
Then a Sabra with no accent, more well-dressed than the rest of us and obviously not used to being squished, shouted at the security guard who was regulating the "flow" of citizens, "Why do you treat us like animals?!?" (She meant why like cattle pressed into a chute but didn't have the vocabulary for that.)
The guard in tie and jacket answered her, "I only work here. For a security agency. Complain to Social Security about it, not to me."
I really wanted to (but didn't) tell the prima donna, "You think THIS is bad?  Have you ever seen how Palestinian workers in the West Bank have to line up in real chutes at the checkpoints every morning before they are cleared to go to work inside Israel?!"

Only the Ethiopians and the Bedouins stood in stoic silence, knowing that with patience we would all eventually get inside the National Insurance Institute of Israel.
(Enlarge the photo to see one Bedouin man and the woman next to him in traditional dress.)
The second stage, once inside the door, is to wait in another line for one of the two security guards to inspect your bag; once you walk through the metal detector you might also get wanded and patted down; once I was even told to drink from my water bottle (to prove it's not a Molotov cocktail I guess).
The third stage of Gehinnom is then waiting in another line, with your ID card and documents ready,  in order to go stand in front of a clerk behind a computer for a short minute.
Only rarely are you allowed to then enter the inner sanctum and talk to someone higher up who might have an answer to your question.
 So, for  ABC Wednesday today, T is for tension.


Reader Wil said...

Thank you for this excellent post. Standing in line and waiting in the heat of the sun is difficult, but complaining about it does not help. During the war when I was a child and a prisoner of a Japanese concentrationcamp, we had to queue for anything whatever. It is annoying, especially when you have to do that every day. like you told about the Palestinian workers . Thank you for saying this.
Wil, ABCWTeam

Unknown said...

wonderful post.... and making my brains go at work thinking ... wish i could change some things in this world foor all the people in it.

Have a nice abc-day / -week
♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)

William Kendall said...

Somehow standing in lineups is one of those fundamentals about government services around the world, but to do so in heat? Not good.

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Rather Dante-esque, with all those levels of Gehinnom! It's not much better here if one must go to the Social Security Office, taking numbers, long lines, waiting, waiting, waiting, but we do usually get to wait indoors and, once we've got our number, sit down on a chair shoulder to shoulder with fellow humanity from all walks of life.

Hels said...

Partially the spike in terror attacks in Israel these last several months, yes... everybody is MUCH more tense than usual.

But also basic civil courtesy and polite language. My Hebrew was fluent but my accent was a giveaway. Decades ago I used to complete peoples' sentences for them with "please" or "thankyou" and I always received the same response: "take your la-de-da British behaviour back home... the Middle East doesn't have time for your precious manners".

Jackie @ travelnwrite said...

It is too bad the world has gotten to the state of requiring security checks nearly everywhere you go. The first time we stayed at a hotel that had barricades at its entry drive and metal detectors at the door I nearly fainted. Now, sadly, it seems routine.

GreensboroDailyPhoto said...

This is becoming the new "freedom." I really don't get it.
Wonder what can be done to ease all of this tension?


Dina said...

Friends, thanks for all your interesting comments.

Hels, it should be noted, though, that civil society in Israel has become a lot more civil over the last two decades. You do hear please and thank you now, especially among younger people. Many even say goodbye and thanks to the driver when they get off the bus.

Dina said...

Speaking of buses, after I got out of the social security office I took a bus in Beer Sheva. Our driver didn't notice the red light and went full speed into a major busy intersection. By a miracle no one crashed into us. We had to sit there in the middle looking like fools until the light changed again.
I think people are simply tense and thinking only about how to avoid the next stabbing. And many are on a short fuse.

Unknown said...

Well, I think everyone is more tense than usual everywhere, but you definitely made your point, Dina, when you said you had to drink from your bottle of water on the check point. That is really something!

crystal said...

Everyone is more tense here lately since what happened in Paris. I can only imagine how much worse it must be where you are.

Roger Owen Green said...

It works better if we honor the queue