First World Problems

Israel is known around the world as “the start-up nation” and for the most part the title is apt.  Israelis come up with great ideas all the time and have the chutzpah to push through obstacles to get it done.


And then you face some bureaucratic idiocy or a convoluted system or bizarre traffic flow issue (this happens more than you might think!), and you wonder how this country even functions day to day.  This week, I was reminded how annoying dealing with the bank is.


In a perfect world, my bank card should have arrived by mail and then I would have activated it and moved on with my life.  But it didn’t come.  My card expired and the new one hadn’t arrived.  I spent 40 minutes on hold to get hung up on when my turn finally came up.  Then – taking a page from the start-up nation – I used the call-back feature, so that they would call me when my turn came up again, only to find out that I have to go to my branch to request a new card.

Have you been to the bank in Israel?  It’s so high-tech you hardly know what to do with yourself.  You can use your card (or other ID) to get a number that will send you to the proper section of the bank for your service.  Everyone stares up at the screens with various numbers on them: A104, F387, Y212, O187, M085.  You have no idea how many people are ahead of you.  You look around at the 30-40 people already there who might be ahead of you, or perhaps you get a magic number that lets you jump the line.

I had to coordinate my schedule because bankers’ hours in Israel are simply absurd.  I arrive and get to one service only to be told that I have to have another service.  I don’t need another number, they can just transfer it.  Woo hoo!

Finally I’m at the counter and the girl pays attention to everything else except me and my request: another client beside me, the clerks and their questions for other clients, a phone call for another client that she makes while I’m standing there.  It goes on and on!  A bell rings and like Pavlov’s dog she gets up mid-sentence and starts collecting cash with a back-handed apology.

300Me at the bank

Finally, I explain the situation and get my new card ordered.  It will be at the bank in a week.

The bank opens at 4:00pm and I arrive at 4:05pm. There are probably 50-60 people there!  How did they get in and get their numbers in 5 minutes?  Surprisingly, I didn’t wait long.  I got my card to find out that it’s entirely new.  It’s as if my card was stolen and a new one issued.  I ask what happens to my accounts attached to the old card – electric bills, internet, phone, etc. “Hmm, well they say on the card.”  “Even though it’s expired?”  “Oh (exaggerated) it’s expired! Well, it should be no problem to transfer everything over.”  “Ok.  Let’s do that.”  “Oh, we don’t do that.  You have to go to a personal banker.”  Anyway, long story short, it doesn’t happen at the bank.  They have no control over it.  And the credit card company is closed.  This will be a mystery until next week.

But all of this started with the mail.  Let’s not forget the idiotic postal service!  It used to be an amazing system.  Nowadays mail is delivered twice a week, if that.  There are stories (urban legends?) that lawyers have missed court dates because the documents came late.

So my card was essentially “stolen” by bad postal service and then I had to jump through hoops to get a new card that may or may not require me to set up all my payments again.


Hello, is this the Start-Up Nation?  Perhaps you might consider a slightly less annoying way to handle the mail and banking?

And as I was dealing with all this silliness, I suddenly remembered that the deadline for filing taxes for US citizens living overseas was Thursday.  Don’t even get me started on that one!