a different side of Israel

Tag: Chutzpa

Defense Ministry Spends a Million Shekels on French Tour

What’s a million shekels off the public’s back when you’re talking about swanky French hotels that cost 2,500 Euro a night for six rooms…two of which nobody actually stayed in…for two days longer than they actually were there for…with the plans being so horribly put together that they had to pay late fees?

This latest disgrace to the citizens of Israel happened this past summer, in July during the 48th Annual Paris Air Show, and was revealed yesterday by the State Comptroller’s Office headed by Micha Lindenstrauss. He said, and quite rightly, “There is no place for spending so much on hotels and lavish suites, particularly during an economic crisis, when most citizens are struggling to make end’s meet.”

He published a 16-page report that depicts careless spending with no supervision of expenses. I guess they have no cheap falafel in France? Too bad.

Barak Air ShowThe defense ministry was quick to absolve Barak of all responsibility of course, saying that he was not in charge of supervision of expenses or which hotels were booked. You see, that’s the problem with Israel. You can never actually find the person in charge, because they rarely if ever seem to exist. The sad thing is, the nonexistent person in charge didn’t even pick the swankiest of hotels. The person picked the swankiest hotels at exorbitant late fees because the event was haphazardly planned at the last minute.

“Nonetheless,” said a defense ministry spokesman, “the defense minister has instructed that from now on, all spending irregularities or deviations from regulations be submitted for his authorization.” Do you think that’s a good idea? I think that’s a good idea. Does this mean Barak is actually in charge now? A living breathing person? I really don’t know what to say. Tears are welling.

Here’s how the expenses broke down:
NIS 527,000 in hotel expenses
NIS 417,000 in covering the rest of the entourage
which totals 944,000, which doesn’t even cover flights, food, or any other expenses.

And get this: Lindenstrauss actually ordered an “accelerated investigation” because an “extensive inquiry” would have taken two years, at which time all those guilty would probably be out of office. This reminds me of a little game I went through when I first moved to Israel and attempted to get my degree from America recognized. Luckily, I knew someone who helped me with the fiasco, who told me to get a certain letter from the unemployment office declaring that I needed my American degree certified “quickly.” Otherwise, it would have taken six months, instead of two weeks.

I see things work this way at the top as well, which is strangely comforting, if not a bit disturbing.

Here’s some other sordid details: The hotel the delegation reserved, the Intercontinental, demanded that the Israeli delegation commit to the suites within four days, agree to pay for the reservation in full in the event of cancellation, and reserve the rooms for six days even though they needed them only for four.

Apparently “international pressure” now includes pesky French hotel managers. We have to be diplomatic, as they say.

An Immigration System Worth Crying Over

passportA few days ago, we received a letter from a reader who is a Russian immigrant, involving the immigration issues surrounding his non Jewish wife. We are posting it here not because we advocate the cause of non Jews immigrating to Israel, but rather because we advocate consistency in immigration policy, so people, when they come here from foreign countries, get actual information that makes sense and doesn’t strand them without health insurance or any means of normal living.

Meaning this: If you, State of Israel, allow the immigration of non Jewish spouses to Israel, then allow it fully and cut the double talk. If you don’t, then don’t, but say this unequivocally. But don’t lure them here under the pretense that everything will be fine and then unload a trap. It’s embarrassing for a modern State to act this way.

The Office of the Interior Ministry has been known to make people cry like children for its zoo-like cacophonous horror of primordial discord, and here’s yet another illustration of it. It’s a wonder we’re able to win wars with a public administration like this.

This is a story that is happening with my family right now, it is unbelievably ridiculous but very true.

I made Aliyah a few months ago from Russia. I am Jewish on both sides of my family and my wife is Russian. In July 2009 I received all my documents and Isaeli permanent residency status without any questions or problems whatsoever. My wife, on the other, hand came one month after me, once I prepared everything for her arrival. At the consulate we were told that she could not get her visa before August 8th 2009, since we were married on August 8th 2008 and one year must pass before she can become an Israeli citizen.

So, after August 8th, my wife went to the consulate in Moscow and submitted her passport. Prior to this we presented all documentation required by the consulate for approval of our status as immigrants. We were told everything is fine and to prepare our new passports for visas, which of course we did.

After arriving in Ben Gurion Airport on the 17th of August, my wife presented her visa to the representatives of the ministry at the airport. Everything was fine and she was let into the country. On the 23rd of August we went to the Ministry of Interior to get her Israeli I.D.. This is when the fun began.

We were told that she must go to the visa section at the Ministry in order for them to review something and she was not issued an I.D., the persons at the visa section gave us a list of documents which must be presented in addition to what was presented already to the consulate. For instance a marriage certificate, certificate of no criminal offenses, pictures to prove that we live together, letters from relatives and a lot of other bull. This was all presented to the consulate in Moscow and they were satisfied. Otherwise they would not have issued the visas.

We were sent to the visa section at the Ministry of Interior immediately after my wife was asked if she was Jewish and what religion did she follow. Of course she answered that she is not Jewish and she did not ascribe to any religion.

I find the whole situation insulting. How is it possible that you get a visa to immigrate to a country, spend money, time, and great effort and when you think everything is finally done, you are told that because your wife is Russian she has to present a bunch of documents which no one told us she would need to present once in Israel? Now they are proposing to issue my wife a temporary visa status. She is not eligible for health insurance, she cannot take language courses, she cannot receive absorption compensation, and she cannot even have a bank account in Israel.

This is the most idiotic thing I have had to deal with in my life. Why issue an immigration visa for permanent residency if then once the person is in the country they are told that it was a mistake?!

Welcome to the Jewish State my friend. When you’re with a people who haven’t had one for 2,000 years, just know that things can get a bit rusty. Just watch out for tetanus on the rust.

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