The Big Felafel

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.


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  1. * Miriam says:

    Molly, that is so terrible! I’ve had nightmare paying stories but never anything like that.

    | Reply Posted 15 years, 3 months ago
  2. I’m a big tough guy and sometimes I too want to cry over these things in Israel. “Fax us this, oh, wrong document, fax us that, oh wrong fax number. Oh, we lost it. Oh, we never got it. Oh, sorry, no one told you? We don’t do that.”

    | Reply Posted 15 years, 3 months ago
  3. * israluv says:

    i find i get my way only after yelling.. and not when i talk nicely.
    keep us posted with this story!

    | Reply Posted 15 years, 3 months ago
  4. * Benji says:

    Ugh-that is so frustrating. I went to the mas hachnasa THREE TIMES in one week to try to become atzmai. I was sent from one floor to another, had hours wasted, and was yelled at for not understanding what they were saying. What to say…your story is a nightmare.

    | Reply Posted 15 years, 3 months ago
  5. * Epicentre says:

    When my brother made aliyah many years ago his wife had some shares in her British bank account that she wanted to sell. They thought that it would be easier to handle the money by opening an account with Leumi London! That’s the way it seems in Chul. So.. she sold the shares and the account was credited….twice. Later on they asked my brother to verify the balance. He refused. Told them it was their job, not his. They sent another letter. And another. Then they told him that if he didn’t confirm then… and they would charge him for all the letters. So he replied that he refuses to confirm and would they note the line from the …[date]. More letters and charges. At last he sent them a letter stating that he would verify the balance on condition that they also irrevocably verify the balance. That confused them of course. However, they checked, found their mistake, cancelled the erroneous credit and “did him a favour” and cancelled all the bank charges on the letters. Not a word of thank you, sorry, it’s good to have an honest customer etc.. of course.
    BTW, there are some more BLL stories – I really should start a blog on them!

    | Reply Posted 15 years, 3 months ago
  6. * Molly says:

    It is the awful truth that we all share these stories…stories that with a little customer service, we would never have to tell. But since it is happening, it is important to inform others…so keep on letting us know your problems and hopefully you will save someone from falling into the same mistakes!

    | Reply Posted 15 years, 3 months ago
  7. * Abbi says:

    I think you should make it clear to the JA (in a letter) that you are appalled at how long it took to get paid and that you will not do any further work for them if it takes 6 weeks and numerous headaches to get the money you earned. CC Zeev Belsky (the head of the JA) and detail everything you went through. There’s really no reason JA couldn’t have cut you a check. They do have checks there, for these purposes. ( I worked for them for a bit, and every department has a checkbook. It’s BS if they claim otherwise.)

    btw, not that you knew, but your first mistake was having them pass it along to Bank Leumi- JA hired you and they should have facilitated the payment, regardless of who was the sponsor.

    | Reply Posted 15 years, 3 months ago
  8. * Molly says:

    thanks for the suggestions…I will send Zeev Belsky a letter. And you are so right about the “first mistake,” what the hell was I thinking!

    | Reply Posted 15 years, 3 months ago
  9. * Gadi says:

    To everyone that has had stories like this in Israel (in other words, to everyone) – you can submit a complaint about poor customer service at or at The complaints there are public, so you will be contacted by a representative of the company / institution who will try to resolve the issue to your satisfaction. Good luck! As the slogan for the tluna website goes, don’t be “fryers” 😉

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 4 months ago
  10. * Gadi says:

    You can also make an official complaint at the website of the State Comptroller and Ombudsman –

    | Reply Posted 14 years, 4 months ago
  11. * Naked says:

    Great information I have Tweeted this, I will keep a eye on your other posts. Ohh what do you all think about the about the israel attack?

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 11 months ago
  12. * Molly says:

    Hi Naked,
    Thanks for the tweet. I don’t like to get too political on the blog, but I support Israel in defending her people and country and believe that any country in the same situation would have done the same line of defense. I think that Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it best the other day, “There are 1.5 million people living in Gaza and only one of them really needs humanitarian aid. Only one of them is locked in a tiny room and never sees the light of day, only one of them is not allowed visits and is in uncertain health – his name is Gilad Shalit, and this month four years will have passed since he was kidnapped.”

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 11 months ago
  13. * Boris C. says:

    What should men do in such situations?

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 1 month ago

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