05 October 2006

Living In Israel – How the Hebrew Press Distorts Our Lives Here
Copyright © R. Kossover, October 2006

Reading the Google News Site, one could easily forget that people live real lives in countries other than America. In Israel, we buy food, pay rent, pay for electricity, buy gas balloons, pay health insurance costs, bus fare, school tuition and the phone bill, and have to work to make the money to pay for all of the above. And we have sex, women bear babies (lots of sex – lots of women have lots of babies). Some women have abortions, sometimes guys go to prostitutes, married people have extramarital affairs; there are divorces, even passion killings. Sometimes people write bad checks, commit crimes, and do all sorts of not very nice things that DO NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH WHETHER ARABS DESERVE YET ANOTHER STATE ON OUR LAND.

But you can count on the Hebrew press to take the unfortunate events of a man down on his luck to try to drag politics into the issue, and to cast doubt on the country’s future. Before we drag the link into the picture, or even mention the newspaper in question, let’s talk a little about the unfortunate man.

Alfonso Rubin came to Israel in 1980 to live, glowing with the sparkling things that the ‘ShaliaH” (representative of the Jewish Agency) had told him about the country. According to the story, he chose to live in Ashdod, and went to an “absorption center” to help him get adjusted to living in Israel. If the bureaucracy was the same in 1980 as it was in 2001, he had a ‘petek,’ a sheet of paper, assigning him to that specific absorption center, and so he figured that when he arrived, someone would be there to take his ‘petek’ and assign him rooms. When he got to the absorption center, it was closed.

Welcome to Israel.

Just for your information, when I arrived at the absorption center in Jerusalem with my wife, two kids and (illegal) cat, the absorption center was closed also. There was an Ethiopian (Jewish) guard on duty who spoke bad Hebrew (just like me). There was a fellow who spoke English there and he got my story out of me, but I had my ‘petek’ ready to show to the guard. It took the kid a while to figure what was going on, but after some jawing, he eventually he figured out that he had to call the director and get him to assign us a couple of rooms. By the time he got there, we had hidden the cat, and smuggled him in quietly when nobody was looking.

The director arrived, a short Moroccan man with an air of authority, and he ordered a bunch or the folks lounging in the lounge to help us with our boxes.

The story in the paper does not mention this, but it is a reasonable assumption that if Rubin had just a little of the pushiness Jews are known for worldwide, something like this happened to him as well. He did not have the best of experiences in the absorption center. He was assigned rooms with a Russian man (single guys get ‘room-mates’ who are usually not of their own choosing) who threatened to kill him. Presumably, he changed room-mates, because Rubin is still around 26 years later.

Rubin had a lot of idealism. He left a job that paid $50,000 a year (in 1980) to come here to live. At least that’s what the story said. I can make the reasonable assumption that he did not get paid anything near that when he finally found work here. Apparently, he remained single. No wife or kids were mentioned in the story. But let’s fast forward a quarter century to 2006.

According to the story, 26 years later, Rubin’s troubles in Israel have only multiplied. Today, he is deeply in debt, has been in the hospital repeatedly, and spends a good part of each day avoiding the police who have taken out a warrant for his arrest. ”I sit at home like a dog. I’m lost in the world,” he confessed to the reporter over an iced coffee. And now we go to the story itself.

The troubles began when Rubin was leaving his last apartment. He gave the landlord two checks that, he realized sometime later, would bounce. So, mindful of the financial practices of his former profession, he immediately went to the bank to cancel the checks and called the former landlord to inform him of the situation. Everything seemed okay.

Six months later Rubin received a phone call from an unidentified man in Tel Aviv informing him that he owed this man NIS 11,000 for the two checks. Rubin didn’t understand and promptly told the man, in New York terms, to please go away.

The unidentified man did not go away. He brought a lawsuit against Rubin for NIS 52,000 - 11,000 for the first two checks, the remainder for interest and damages. The man, it turns out, had bought the checks from Rubin’s landlord on the black market, not an uncommon practice in Israel.

Okay, so this guy is in financial trouble. It turns out that he is being sued for not paying his cell-phone bills, and other bills, largely because he is trying to deal with this lawsuit. And working five nights at a Tel Aviv hotel, he still doesn’t make a lot of money, and would be happy to leave, if he could afford a passport.

But NOW let’s take a look at the headline of this story in Y-netnews.com, the English on-line edition of the Hebrew daily, Yediot Ahronot.

Frustrated immigrant: Stop aliyah. Period

Personal account of American Jew adjusting to life in Israel. Frustrated with widespread neglect of immigrants, he points out that aliyah is not rosy picture painted by Jewish Agency. His conclusion: Best to stay put and not come until Israel can absorb existing immigrants
Ashley Rindsberg
Published, 5 /10/06

For a brief review of the facts. This guy Rubin, a man who has lived here over a quarter century: He is still an immigrant? This is the story of “an American Jew adjusting to life in Israel?” Give me a break! Look at how this headline distorts reality!! Was my father, z”l, a Polish immigrant to the States, still adjusting to life in America when his first wife passed away after living there a quarter century later? I don’t think so. He was in grief, he was lonely, and as soon as he could, he made sure to meet another woman (my mother) and re-marry. But he was not still adjusting to life in America.

This article reported that Rubin required repeated hospitalizations for hernia operations. Who paid for those repeated hospitalizations? He didn’t, that’s for sure. The health insurers who insure everybody in Israel did. In the States, he never would have gotten past the clerk without Cadillac health insurance, and would have had to pay co-pays along with the treatment. If Rubin had the kind of income he has here, he never would have had the kind of health insurance he needed for repeated hospitalizations and operations. Hmmm.

This fellow Rubin needs a lot of help. The fellow who is suing him needs to be clubbed over the head until he is unconscious and the same is true for his former landlord. That might teach the former landlord not to engage in shady practices on the black market and might teach the guy suing Rubin not to attempt to gain from illegal practices. Without that law suit or an arrest warrant hanging over him, he could arrange to pay the cell-phone company and the other company suing him their legitimate debts. And nota bene, he does not have hospital bills.

Would running back to America help Rubin? I sincerely doubt it. He is over fifty years old, has spent half his life here, and would have lots of trouble getting work in a country he hasn’t lived in for a quarter century, where he would get no help whatever adjusting. He likely has no social security because he did not work for “forty quarters” in the States. He had left when he was twenty-six.

Is falling into hard times after a quarter century in a country any reason to leave? I know a fellow who was in a similar situation a couple of years ago. He had raised 13 kids here, has a grandchild or two, but was in debt up to his eyeballs and could not get reliable transport to a job, so could not find decent work. He did get help. And thank G-d, he is still here.

But let’s finally turn now to Yediot Ahronot, the newspaper that ran this story. Why did they run this story with this angle to it? Here we come to the painful truth of the matter, where we get to see just what kind of beast this paper (and the other two major Hebrew dailies Ma’ariv, and Ha’aretz) really is. The story is designed to kill the basic lifeblood of this country and its raison d’être, “kibútz galuyot” the ingathering of the Jewish exiles, bringing them home to Israel after 1,800 years of wandering and persecution.

What better way to convince the Israeli (and Jewish) reading public that Israel is not a place to live than to have an “immigrant” (who is here for a quarter century already) in trouble condemn it in his own words? What a sickening sight: The descendants of the glorious enterprise of “settling the Land” taking a knife to its own nation’s throat on its English language website.

This is news?

No, this is a tragedy.


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