Sunday, March 28, 2004

Whilst having Shabbat lunch with friends the other day, one of the company was bemoaning the difficulty that he had experienced whilst assisting his nephew in opening a bank account. No matter that the gentleman in question already had a business account, joint account and separate accounts for himself and his wife at the same branch, they still insisted on his bringing a Council Tax (Arnona) bill with his address on as proof of identity. Not an electricity bill, a water bill or gas bill you understand – only a Council Tax bill would prove sufficiently the gentleman’s identity to the bank.

We are all familiar with this type of “Only in Israel” moment. That’s the precise second where, we have one of those moments of jaw dropping incredulity at the sheer stupidity of the system, slap our palm to our forehead in disbelief and gasp “Only in Israel” (or “Rak BeYisrael” if you’ve been here a little longer).

Now in some cases, this sort of reaction is completely warranted but I often find myself getting rather cross at the other constant niggling complaints which have the “Only in Israel” label attached to them as if everything outside of Israel was absolutely perfect. The case that I have mentioned above actually happened in London rather than Jerusalem but I know that you all nodded your heads and tutted as you read it. Suitably inspired I’ve begun a collection of “Only in Israel” moments from around the world to show that these things happen on a frighteningly regular basis in other countries. I’m just going to mention a few below – recent and more high profile cases which were they to happen in Israel would have us beating our heads against the wall.

Here’s a cracker which appeared on the front page last Thursday – you’d have missed it if you’re a Ma’ariv reader as it was reported in Britain’s Daily Telegraph. A senior Brain Surgeon, having paid for his soup and sat down in the staff canteen at the hospital, returned to the self-service to grab some croutons which he had forgotten. As he didn’t pass through the cash point again, he was adjudged by technocrats to have stolen said croutons and was suspended for 3 days during which several operations were cancelled until someone saw sense and reinstated him. Only in Israel……

Here are a couple which should sound familiar. The best part of the entire Eastern side of our one remaining Superpower is completely shut down when its entire electricity supply goes down. People end up sleeping in shop doorways and train stations in scenes reminiscent of the Blitz (that’s the part of WWII that you don’t remember if you’re American!) Rumours that an Israeli electrician put in too small a fuse with the assurance “Yihye Beseder” have not been completely discounted by Federal investigators. And how about the 1 inch of snow which brought much of Southern England to a stand still last year? Or the “wrong type” of snow or leaves on the track, which have famously brought the train service to a grinding halt in the past?

These are classic “Only in Israel” moments and the only reason that they haven’t been recognised as such is that they happened to occur outside our (disputed) borders. There are many many more where these came from but these are more than enough to make my point. The grass is not always greener on the other side, these things don’t happen “only in Israel” and lets stop knocking the country for having faults which we can find anywhere else if only we bothered to look.


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