Tuesday, November 27, 2012


This is completely unrelated to the post below, but I thought it was funny.
Spotted this at Max Stock (an EVERYTHING store) today. Party plates!

An article that came out today in the Times of Israel paints a contradictory picture of Israel.
The report finds woefully inadequate transportation infrastructures, low productivity in an Israeli work hour, an education system producing a generation of low-achieving students, and employment levels dramatically lower than in much of the industrialized West.
And further,
Based on OECD data that links GDP to the total working hours of the economy, Israel ranks 23rd out of 34 OECD states in terms of the productivity of an Israeli working hour. Worse, Israel has been falling ever farther behind the OECD average since the mid-1970s.
Everyone tells you when you move to Israel that there are particularly frustrating aspects about the country's infrastructure. 

The fax machine is still king here, but the bank likes to send you text messages updating you on activity. The army has a crazy active social media presence where you can find the most up-to-date information, but getting an appointment with your aliyah counselor might take a good month. And the list goes on and on. 

The most obnoxious case-in-point for me is the banking system here. It's not enough to send me screaming or taking up hard drugs, but it is pretty annoying. It's like they want you to have to come into the branch (and, on that note, you better go to the branch where you set up your account or else things just don't work right). In the U.S., when you set up a bank or credit account, you set up your PIN to access the ATM when you set up your banking account or by calling into a 1-800 number and choosing the PIN. In Israel? No dice. In Israel, you have to come to the bank (the right branch, remember) to get your PIN, but first you have to request it. And then wait a week. And if they never send it or something strange happens, it could be a month later and you still can't access your money through the ATM. Instead, you have to go to the branch to get your money whenever you want it. And the card not working at retail outlets? Yeah, that one is a mystery -- to you, your banker, and the shop owner. (Note: The you in all of this is, of course, me.)

You can't call a number, you can't choose your PIN, it's all pretty arse backward if you ask me for a nation that calls itself the Start-Up Nation. In a place where high tech abounds, lo-tech seems to be the norm in most places, and I find it particularly frustrating. There's one place in Jerusalem where you can find quality Apple products (resale!), and there are tons of places that just plain don't take credit cards. And yet we have some of the most amazing medical and military technologies in the world. If quality counts in only some things, I guess medicine and defense are it, but why is it so hard to find quality floss or Q-tips in this country?

Walk by any given shop in Jerusalem and you'll find the shopkeeper standing outside smoking or schmoozing with his fellow shop owners. So it doesn't surprise me that we rank so low in productivity. The busiest shops? Shoe stores. Israelis love shoes, did you know? It doesn't take much to be productive in a shoe store. 

If anything, I suppose knowing the slowness of the system gives me pause as I consider what going to the doctor is going to be like. I anticipate putting it off as long as humanly possible, at least until I'm in the midst of a good book that might keep me occupied for however long it takes. I don't mind waiting. It's just knowing that Israel has the potential to be such a magnificently First World country that drives me nuts. I find it difficult to accept the fax machine and a banking system that doesn't let me choose my own PIN and insists I wait a week to get it.

They say Israelis are prickly on the outside and soft on the inside, which is 100 percent true. I suppose that the country itself is quite the same, with the personality it projects as being one of technological advances and an internal struggle with old tech.