Another Lesson Learned: Just be a Crybaby
When you are an American attempting to live in Israel life can feel like a smashed banana. It is a feeling of knowing that something beautifully bright and ripe can turn into a mushy dark shriveled mess. And that is exactly how I feel when I lose a battle in Israel.These battles that new immigrants are sometimes forced to learn become vital lessons for survival in Israel. I would like to share my lesson with you in hopes that you can gain something from my horrible experience, without having to actually experience it.
Lesson 239: Don’t be a Tough Guy…Just be a Cry Baby
My parents taught me to always stand up for myself. However, it is difficult to keep that goal in Israel. Whether it is at the municipality, tax authority, social services or at the bank, it seems like everyone is out to screw me.
Case in point is my most recent battle with Bank Leumi. In November my improv group performed for a Jewish Agency Internship group. We were told we would be paid as long as we provided an invoice to the sponsor of the night’s event, Bank Leumi. We gave the invoice to the Jewish Agency before the show and they informed us it would be passed along to Bank Leumi and we should be paid two weeks after the show.
Of course you and I both know that two weeks came and went and we were not paid. After another two weeks I was in contact with the Jewish Agency to check up on our payment. And that is when I went from ripe banana to black mush. I was bounced back and forth between the Jewish Agency, Bank Leumi and our bank, Discount, for the next two months. First the Jewish Agency said we still needed an accountant number and then Bank Leumi told us that we needed another document. When we would go to Bank Discount they insisted we had already given the proper information and it was ridiculous for Bank Leumi (or any client) to insist for more info in order to pay us.
Back and forth it went. I made all the phone calls since the Jewish Agency and Bank Leumi didn’t care if our group was paid or not. I would call the Jewish Agency and they would say all the papers are fine and we should receive payment by the end of the week. But the end of the week became early next week which turned into improper paperwork-again. In fact I was once informed that the check was in the mail and after a week I called only to find out they had never mailed it due to do another missing document.
Then the payment went from a check to a wire transfer. This meant…more documents. We gave Bank Leumi every document in our filing system. At this point we were worried more about being robbed than being paid. On Tuesday a manager at Bank Leumi called to say there was a problem with the bank accountant number. After that was fixed (we told him he was looking at the wrong number), we expected to finally get paid.
But we know that didn’t happen. I realized that speaking with the Jewish Agency rep had become a complete waste of time. I called the manager I had spoken with the other day-on his cell phone at 8pm at night. He again insisted there was a wrong number to which I asked, “How is it that Bank Leumi cannot figure out how to make a wire transfer…I just don’t get it.” I decided it wasn’t worthwhile to talk to this manager and from previous fights (and lessons) in Israel I knew that I would need to speak to someone above him.
I got the cell phone number of his supervisor. And then to further ruin my night I called him. Well he didn’t like that I was yelling at him and he hung up on me. I called him back and told him I had every right to be upset and once again I couldn’t understand how Bank Leumi couldn’t just figure out how to pay us. He yelled back at me, “We are Bank Leumi. We have money. But since you screamed at me we are not going to pay you anymore.”
I couldn’t believe it. I was yelling to be heard but no one was listening, stuck in their deaf egos. This is where the breakthrough and breakdown moment occurred. While I normally win these types of battles with a confident and fierce voice-it was painfully obvious that in this situation my only way to pay day was crying.
So that is what I did. I just cried and in between my sobs I managed to say, “I am just not used to being treated like this. We did our job and we just want to be paid. We worked with the Jewish Agency and we are all olim. Why do you have to treat us like dirt? I don’t know what to do. I just know the treatment makes me want to pack my bags and get out of Israel.”
My cry baby tears turned the situation completely around. He told me not to take it personally and there was just a communication problem. He promised me my money by tomorrow (which would be today as I write this). He said I just needed to send one last document and then the money would be transferred by the end of the day. He also told me, “Don’t be upset. Get a good night of sleep. Don’t worry.” He turned me into a baby and now he was treating me like one.
And that is the lesson. I have realized that while Israel may look like a society of equality, it is very much a machismo land. The men like to know they still have power so breaking a woman down into tears is that taste of satisfaction they are looking for. In fact after I made this realization I looked back on other dreadful situations and realized that most of them went my way after I cried.
I think it is completely humiliating to cry to get your way and once more it is worse that I am advising you to do the same. But these are the painful lessons in life-or at least life in Israel. So now I am a smashed banana. Still, I am trying to find something positive out of this awful experience.
I have decided to file a complaint with Bank Leumi and try to expose this story as high up as I can go. And that makes this smashed banana ready to be turned into a delicious banana cake.