Wednesday, October 09, 2013

An unusual country

Israel has for many years been trying to be a "normal" country, whatever that is. But, there are certain things about Israel that make it unique and are difficult to understand. I don't talk here about the obvious, Israel's Jewish culture, but about aspects of life here that are unexpected and maybe inexplicable.

For example, the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) broadcasts news in English three times a day (6.30 am, 12.30 pm and 8.30 pm). Since English is an international language and there are many tourists, journalists and diplomats in Israel, you would think that this would be an important way for Israel to get its message across. But, they broadcast these news reports at such a low power (volume) that it is almost impossible to hear them. What is the point of this, can someone explain it to me, I see no point in bothering to broadcast if people cannot hear it.

Since this is a country dependent on tourism you would think that they would make it easy for tourists to find their way around. But, in many cases the spelling of names in English is so abstruse that no GPS system could find them. Suppose you want to go to Caesarea, named after Caesar, you would not find it, because the official spelling is "Qesariyya" (don't forget the double y). Where does this come from, probably the German, but, it is certainly spelt especially to confuse the tourists. They have been talking about changing this for many years, but so far no change.

We drove up to Kfar Atta north of Haifa and went thru the Carmel tunnel, that goes under the city thru the Carmel mountain and reduces the time for transiting Haifa considerably and reduces the traffic jams in Haifa. On the way back we took rte. 22, and saw a sign at Kfar Atta saying ":Tunnels 8 km". We (three of us) looked for further signs for the tunnels en route to Haifa, but saw none, the road took us directly thru the downtown area of Haifa, but we never saw any further signs for the tunnels. What is the point of building tunnels at incredible expense if the ordinary driver cannot find them? Why aren't there huge neon lit signs saying "Tunnels this way" in Hebrew and English? What a waste.

In an emergency don't rush to the emergency room (miyun) of the nearest hospital, first go and see your doctor and get a permission slip to go to the emergency room, or better yet go to your Sick Fund (Kupat Holim) and line up and get a form 17 to take to the emergency room. Failing that, if it is really an emergency and you don't call an ambulance (that you will have to pay for unless the patient is hospitalized) call a specific number and tell the person on the other end that you have an emergency, then explain calmly what the emergency is. If they refuse to cover the cost of the emergency room you will have to pay the full cost yourself, currently $400. Only if you have prior permission from your sick fund or doctor (in writing) will they cover the cost. Of course, being Israel there is a loophole, if you fail to get the permission in advance, you can apply afterwards with the doctor's letter from the miyun, and if they feel like it they can give you prior permission after the event. This is Israel.


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