a different side of Israel

Too Hot, much too Hot

Today’s been a record hot day for the season. I’m not sure what the temperature actually is but it feels close to around 90F. The heat in Israel can be uncomfortable, but it’s easy to get distracted from it when dealing with other things– like, say, the Israeli service industry.

My latest run-in– maybe “collision” would be a better word– was with the Internet and cable provider Hot. I’ll give a little background on the company in the form of telling you that there is a Hebrew website called “I Hate Hot.” The website is well built and seems very active.

The first salvo of stupidity occurred, naturally, the first time I contacted Hot about a problem I was having with my connection. The technician said, “How can I help you?” I said, “I have a problem with my internet.” There was silence until I said, “Hello?” The thick Israeli accent on the other end responded, “Ehhhh….yes, ehh, my computer is brroken, so I must to pass you to another person.” Bad omen.

They eventually managed to send out a technician– who didn’t fix the problem. They sent another one 3 days later and, you guessed it, no dice. They sent a third who decided it’d be better for him to not show up at all.

The first customer service representative to “help” me after the volley of failed technicians was a cute-sounding Israeli girl, Meirav. Meirav said she’d get back to me. Ha. The second one (also cute-sounding) told me she’d also call me back but I didn’t allow that to happen. Very angry by this point, I said, “No. Either I speak to a manager or I cancel the account. It’s that simple.” The girl pulled out a whole new strategy: she said “Okay, hold on please,” and then left me hanging on hold indefinitely. Clearly this girl was taught the art of attrition when she was in the army.

Then Yair called me from the tech department. “Ehhh…I must to know what the problem with internet.” Yair…Yair…are you really asking me this question again? We go through the motions of this silly dance of failed customer “service”. We reach a conclusion: someone who speaks English will call me back.

Are you still wondering if that actually happened?

I was initially going to use the first incident– the Hot computer technician who has a broken computer– as a metaphor to illustrate some sociological or economic phenomenon in Israel. I’m not sure what the metaphor means anymore, or if the situation is anything more than literal.

But with 18 families controlling the vast majority of the wealth, utilities and government institutions it’s not really that surprising. It’s even less surprising when you take into account a public that thinks an Ivri Lider-Aviv Gefen-Rita sing-a-long constitutes a protest. I say again and again that there’s only one real problem in Israel– it just has many facets.

I just got off the phone with another technician who told me confidently that he made an appointment with a “professional” technician to come fix the problem tomorrow, since the problem is complex and needs “professional” service (making me wonder what the other guys were). He asked me to hold, came back, and then told me that, actually, the pro can’t come tomorrow. Someone will have to call me back later.


  1. First, HOT is not an Internet Service Provider. Second, speaking Hebrew in a Hebrew-speaking country can prove itself useful at times, and third, not all people go to the army in Israel. I too hate young Israelis that can’t speak proper English (and I am not a native anglo), but it’s in our best interest to speak the language of the state we live in at an acceptable level, and not rely on the language skills of others to make ourselves understood. Other than that, you are right about the general level of service in Israel, and especially Hot. I usually blame on the incredible degree of incompetence (I avoid saying “extreme dumbness”, I’m too kind).

  2. True, N.R., this should all be done in Hebrew, theoretically. I will tell you from personal experience– since I speak Hebrew well enough to use it when I want, even though I don’t speak it well– that if you want something done in Israel, do it in English. It changes everything.

    I don’t ‘hate’ young Israelis who can’t speak proper English. It makes no difference to me. But you are completely right to say that Hebrew is our language, and the one we should be using for all things. In this case, when someone at Hot couldn’t speak English, we spoke Hebrew. No prob.

    The real issue is the level of expectation people have from institutions that serve them in Israel. People here expect to be screwed, to put it simply. And when they do get screwed, they scream and shout for a few minutes (or hours, in the case of Hot) and then drop the issue. And all the crappy service providers, from Hot, to the Ministry of the Interior (Misrad HaP’nim), to the government itself, know this.

    My comment about the 18 (or 19 or whatever) families who dominate Israel and the lack of protest here is about the root of all this. Trace back this problem: service is bad because there’s a lack of competition; there’s a lack of competition because of the high level of corruption and collusion; which in turn is a structural feature of the government that stems from the fact that we (the public) are not doing enough (or anything) to change it.

    The government represents its people– both in theory, as delegates of power, and in fact, as a sample of the kind of people who inhabit the country. Saying, as I did in the post, that we simply need more protests is glib and not totally correct. What we really need is wholehearted, on the ground change. Before the public can reform the government and all other Israeli institutions, that is, we need to reform ourselves.

    P.S. I just want to mention that as I write this I’m waiting for the 5th Hot technician to come fix the problem that the other 4 couldn’t. I’d ask the Minister of Communications to help me but he’d probably tell me to wait for the Meshiach to come and fix it.

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