Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category
As an oleh, one of the challenges with living in Israel is to not be a freier. It is very easy to get taken advantage of by people. Speaking a foreign language (even if you are pretty fluent) makes it easier to become intimidated, and one is often nervous about not knowing the right way to do things. Often, the right way around here = bulldozing ahead, being assertive, and making sure to speak up for yourself. From a customer service perspective, this can also come in the form of speaking to the customer as if they do not know what they are talking about, telling the customer what they have to do (when really that is just what the customer rep wants you to do – what you have to do could be something entirely different).
As I said, it can be a struggle. Which makes my conversation today so sweet (worth coming out of blog dormancy for). We have an appliance policy with a company that has the initials GM. We paid them a sum of money up front, in exchange for 5 years of warranty on some of our already used appliances (I insured the US appliances ones that we brought with us when we made aliyah: GE Oven, Maytag Washer and Drier). The policy guarantees that they will respond with a service call within 72 hours, a charge of 58 NIS for unlimited service calls per appliance per quarter, and they will fix any issues with the appliance, or replace it if it cant be fixed.
While doing the wash a few nights ago, after the water was almost all in on a large load, the washing machine quit. The water stopper, but it did not proceed to the next step in the cycle (normally it shakes around for a while, drains out the dirty water, rinse, repeat). I only discovered this the next day, when I went to put the clean load into the drier and instead found a full load full of dirty water. So we called in GM on Tuesday morning (also ended up rinsing out everything from the load in the bathtub and then drying through a variety of methods). They scheduled a service call for today (within 72 hours), for sometime between 10-1. So far, so good.
11:30am, I get a call from GM:
GM: We are sorry, but the service guy isn’t going to be able to make it today. Can we please reschedule for Sunday?
Me: Well, if you are going to reschedule for Sunday, then that means that you wont be making the service call within 72 hours, right?
GM: Right, but these things happen. He is just a person and these things happen.
Me: True, these things happen. But you are obligated through your contract with us to provide service within 72 hours, and now you are saying that you cannot do so.
GM: Correct. But he just can’t make it. These things happen.
Me: Ok. Well then please tell me what type of compensation you would like to offer us because you are not going to hold up your end.
GM: What? [friendliness disappearing from voice]. We can’t give you anything. We would just like to reschedule for Sunday.
Me: That is not ok. Isn’t there a service fee that we would need to pay?
GM: Yes, 58 NIS.
Me: Ok. Well then I think that we should not have to pay this fee.
GM: What? Why not?
Me: Because you are not fulfilling what you agreed to in the contract.
GM: Well, I can’t approve that on my own.
Me: I’ll wait.
[Put on hold for 5 minutes]
GM: [talking very fast] In the end we can have someone come by today. Good bye.
A small, albeit very satisfying victory (I normally lose these types of things).
I was just browsing through the newly released “CableGate” collection on WikiLeaks, and came across a cable written by someone in the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979, making observations about the Persian (Iranian) psyche, and how understanding this should change the way in which you negotiate with them.
The conclusion was:
THERE ARE SEVERAL LESSONS FOR THOSE WHO WOULD NEGOTIATE WITH PERSIANS IN ALL THIS:
- –FIRST, ONE SHOULD NEVER ASSUME THAT HIS SIDE OF THE ISSUE WILL BE RECOGNIZED, LET ALONE THAT IT WILL BE CONCEDED TO HAVE MERITS. PERSIAN PREOCCUPATION WITH SELF PRECLUDES THIS. A NEGOTIATOR MUST FORCE RECOGNITION OF HIS POSITION UPON HIS PERSIAN OPPOSITE NUMBER.
- –SECOND, ONE SHOULD NOT EXPECT AN IRANIAN READILY TO PERCEIVE THE ADVANTAGES OF A LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP BASED ON TRUST. HE WILL ASSUME THAT HIS OPPOSITE NUMBER IS ESSENTIALLY AN ADVERSARY. IN DEALING WITH HIM HE WILL ATTEMPT TO MAXIMIZE THE BENEFITS TO HIMSELF THAT ARE IMMEDIATELY OBTAINABLE. HE WILL BE PREPARED TO GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO ACHIEVE THIS GOAL, INCLUDING RUNNING THE RISK OF SO ALIENATING WHOEVER HE IS DEALING WITH THAT FUTURE BUSINESS WOULD BE UNTHINKABLE, AT LEAST TO THE LATTER.
- –THIRD, INTERLOCKING RELATIONSHIPS OF ALL ASPECTS OF AN ISSUE MUST BE PAINSTAKINGLY, FORCEFULLY AND REPEATEDLY DEVELOPED. LINKAGES WILL BE NEITHER READILY COMPREHENDED NOR ACCEPTED BY PERSIAN NEGOTIATORS.
- –FOURTH, ONE SHOULD INSIST ON PERFORMANCE AS THE SINE QUA NON AT EACH STAGE OF NEGOTIATIONS. STATEMENTS OF INTENTION COUNT FOR ALMOST NOTHING.
- –FIFTH, CULTIVATION OF GOODWILL FOR GOODWILL’S SAKE IS A WASTE OF EFFORT. THE OVERRIDING OBJECTIVE AT ALL TIMES SHOULD BE IMPRESSING UPON THE PERSIAN ACROSS THE TABLE THE MUTUALITY OF THE PROPOSED UNDERTAKINGS, HE MUST BE MADE TO KNOW THAT A QUID PRO QUO IS INVOLVED ON BOTH SIDES.
- –FINALLY, ONE SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR THE THREAT OF BREAKDOWN IN NEGOTIATIONS AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT AND NOT BE COWED BY THE POSSIBILITY. GIVEN THE PERSIAN NEGOTIATOR’S CULTURAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL LIMITATIONS, HE IS GOING TO RESIST THE VERY CONCEPT OF A RATIONAL (FROM THE WESTERN POINT OF VIEW) NEGOTIATING PROCESS.
Reading these points (I added the emphases) it is really striking how if you replace the word “Persian/Iranian” with “Palestinian” you have a very good synopsis of everything that has been going wrong with the negotiations between Israel and the PLO over the past nearly 20 years. Imagine how different things would be if the Israeli negotiators and respective Prime Ministers over the years had:
- Insisted on forcing recognition of the Israeli position as a prerequisite for talking, ever
- No assumed that the PLO would ever perceive the advantage of a long-term relationship with Israel based on trust, and rather, assumed that the PLO would always try to maximize their own benefits, and would go to great lengths (starting wars and intafadas) in order to achieve their goals
- Insisted on performance and following up on obligations, and not being satisfied by PLO statements of intent (which count for almost nothing)
- Recognized that giving away things to the PLO merely for the cultivation of goodwill will never get you anywhere, and that if they get something, they must give something tangible back in return (and a statement of intention is not tangible)
- Been prepared for threats of a breakdown in negotiations at any moment (indeed, these threats happen nearly every day, and are most likely to be found on the day after Israel makes a goodwill gesture)
We were at Home Center (a home goods store – the Hebrew name is הום סנטר rather than what you might think it would be, something like מרבז הבית) on Friday, looking at different options for curtains to hang in one of the rooms for our house. Predictably, it is hard to choose among all of the different color/fabric options. We had a helpful sales lady who was giving us advise (based on what she was wearing, almost certainly not what would be labeled as “religious”).
As we were vacillating between the different options, she said: הקדוש ברוך הוא לא ברא את העולם ביום אחד – God didn’t create the world in one day – it took him seven days. So there is no need to feel that you have to choose today. And as we were leaving (in the end, we postponed the big decision for another day) she gave us a blessing and wished us a Shabbat Shalom. (Only in Israel).
Since making aliyah, I have discovered a big cultural difference between Israelis and non-Israelis when it comes to resting on Shabbat – many Israelis hold it as their sacred right to sleep on Shabbat day from 2pm to 4pm. From what I heard, there used to be a law that prohibits making noise outside between these hours. (I have seen signs in some parks in Yerushalayim to this effect – the park is closed between these hours). And though this law doesn’t exist in many places (such as Yad Binyamin, where I live), many people still pretend that it does, and claim this period of enforced silence as one of their sacred rights. If you have kids, you still go to sleep between these hours, and the kids just fend for themselves and learn to play quietly.
Don’t get me wrong – I like to sleep on Shabbat as much as the next guy. But with little kids to supervise and entertain, it often just does not happen. We have yet to have a Shabbat where all three kids slept at the same time, and when one or two of them conks out, it could just as well be from 1-2 or 10:30-11:30. And in my opinion, it is not fair to force kids to stay indoors for such a long part of the afternoon, when they have lots of energy to get out and they have been inside for most of the week.
This past Shabbat, at 3:30pm I let the kids go outside to play in our back yard. We had guests over for Shabbat (with three more little kids), and they really needed to get out. It has also been over 90 F for throughout the main daylight hours since last Pesach, and this was one of the first days in the Fall where the weather was even remotely Fall-like. So the kids went to our back yard, and started playing there – 3-5 year old level activities, running around, talking, pretending, making some noise, but definitely a reasonable amount of noise for daytime hours.
Our back yard adjoins all of the back yards on our block, so when you are back there, you are looking at the backs of the houses behind us. So one of our neighbors goes out onto his mirpesset sheirut (place to hand laundry off of the second floor) and called out to me, saying that he (or his wife was trying to sleep), and our kids were making noise (the implication being that they should not be outside). I made a face, said back “well, where should they play” to which he kind of shrugged and didn’t say anything. I then brought the kids back in (since you do want to stay on good terms with your potential very long-term neighbors).
In my opinion, daytime is for being awake, and night time is for sleeping. It is nice to sleep on Shabbat, but to prohibit other people from taking part in regular daytime activities (like playing outside with a reasonable level of noise) seems to me to be pretty selfish. (There is also a park across the street surrounded by the back yards of a bunch of houses, where adults in the houses have been known to yell at kids playing quietly without making any noise in the park at 2:30pm on Shabbat, telling them that the park is closed! – which of course, it wasn’t). In speaking with other non-Israelis (not just Americans), it seems that the opinions on this are really divided between your country of origin – native Israelis take it for granted that that is quiet time, while non-Israelis don’t. I do intend to speak to the local Rav to find out his opinion about how to handle the situation (since there is nothing illegal about playing outside between these hours in your own yard, and while stealing someone’s sleep at night is very bad, it is not so clear how this would apply during the day), but for now, it is kind of annoying to have to deal with this.
Today’s Arutz Sheva email had three aliyah-themed stories, all playing along the same theme: the Jewish Agency (the government sponsored organization whose mission statement used to be directed towards encouraging aliyah) doesn’t really care about olim from North America (read: the US) anymore. And Nefesh b’Nefesh does.
A different kind of “aliyah revolution” is in the making, and according to aliyah activists as well as officials of the Absorption Ministry, it’s a regressive revolution, one that will damage – perhaps severely – the aliyah effort, especially from North America.
At a meeting this week, the Jewish Agency ratified a plan it approved last summer that would change the focus of the organization from encouraging aliyah to encouraging Disapora-Israel ties – in the hope that education on Israel would lead to those inclined to do so to make aliyah…
With the shift in focus, though, a number of programs that had been in place to provide assistance to North American Jews to make aliyah have been off-loaded from the Jewish Agency. Some of these programs had been moved to the Absorption Ministry. A veteran of the aliyah movement told Israel National News, that one result will be that North American Jews seeking to make aliyah are destined to “fall through the safety net” of aliyah, getting shunted aside by both the Jewish Agency and the Absorption Ministry.
It’s kind of chaval. However, remembering our aliyah (almost five years ago, when we still had to go to the Jewish Agency and open a tik, and we actually signed paper forms from Misrad haPnim) I don’t remember the Jewish Agency doing so much to help us. Much more came from Nefesh B’Nefesh and from our the person in charge of helping olim in the yishuv where we first made aliyah (Kochav Yaakov – thanks Veronique!).
Israel National News has been informed that a program that retrains licensed teachers from the United States who make aliyah for work in the Israeli school system has been canceled, jeopardizing the prospective immigration of possibly hundreds of teachers in the coming years.
According to aliyah aid group Nefesh b’Nefesh, the closing of the “Morim Olim” (Immigrant teachers) program takes away what had been a valuable resource that teachers who wished to immigrate to Israel have used in the past to get themselves acclimated to the country. The closure of the Morim Olim program program, says Yael Katsman of NBN, means that “there is no longer an address within the system for teachers’ questions and concerns, and assistance in helping them find jobs.”…
A higher-up in the Education Ministry who spoke anonymously to Israel National News hinted at this as well, saying that “there has been a lot of back and forth here in recent months, and money is definitely not the only reason for the program cut.”
If this was done for political reasons (as the article implies) then it is another chaval. From what I have heard, Israel is not exactly overflowing with qualified English subject teachers, and the more that Israel can do to encourage skilled English speaking teachers to make aliyah and to continue here in their profession, the better off it will be (for both the olim, and the students who benefit from their experience).
3) Nefesh B’Nefesh Focuses on Careers. Read the story for a good PR piece on how NBN is helping olim with their klitah both before and after aliyah. At least someone still cares about the American olim.
The NY Times currently has a story up on the front page of its website with the following headline:
4 Divers Killed Near Gaza by Israeli Navy
Judging from the headline, I would guess that since the Israeli Navy has not had its fill of violence after it killed nine humanitarian activists from the Freedom Flotilla, they decided to murder four Gazan citizens whose only crime was to go diving in an area that Israel had claimed to be part of their blockade. Such evil Israelis.
However, if you go into the actual article, you will read the following:
At least four Palestinians suspected by Israel of planning an attack via the sea were killed near the Gaza coast early on Monday. The Israeli military said that an Israeli naval force spotted what it called a “squad of terrorists wearing diving suits” and fired on them, killing some of the suspects.
Well, that changes things a little bit. It seems that the Israeli Navy spotted a “squad of terrorists wearing diving suits” in the water and fired on them. Though the selective use of quotation marks here shows how much trust the NY Times will put in the IDF. Read the rest of this entry »
I just read Rav Aharon Lichtenstein’s review of The Eye of the Storm by Rav Aharon Feldman, which appeared in the most recent Jewish Action (always a good read, this time particularly stellar). Following on the heels of the reprint of Stephen Savitsky’s call to achdut within the greater Orthodox community that appeared in Mishpacha following their cover story about Rav Schachter, Rav Lichtenstein responds to Rav Feldman’s attacks against Zionism and Feminism in a most impressive fashion: while eruditely pointing out some weak points and inconsistencies in Rav Feldman’s polemics, Rav Lichtenstein begins and ends on a note of reconciliation, attesting to his hope that all Torah-committed Jews can somehow learn to live and accept one another. He begins by recalling how Rav Feldman (several years his senior) befriended him and took him sledding when they were classmates as youngsters in the 1940′s in the Talmudical Academy of Baltimore. He ends with the following:
Finally, if I may, I close as I opened– on a personal note. Dear Reb Aharon: That pair of juvenile prattling sledders is now well past seventy-five. Each has, besiyata diShmaya, in successive contexts, respectively, learned much Torah and has been blessed with the ability and the circumstances to enable reaching out and personally transmitting to others that which we have been endowed. It stands to reason and is, presumably, mandated by joint mission, that our worlds meet and attain mutual fruition. As we both painfully know, however, this occurs all too rarely.
Must the walls that separate our communities and our institutions soar quite so high, the interposing moat plunge quite so deep? Shall we never sled again?
Simply beautiful, both in delivery and content.
(I would be remiss if I did not mention my second favorite sentence from the review: “Can any halachist familiar with the historical tergiversations of bein hashmashot, pregnant with practical relevance, accept this apodictic generalization at face value? An overall directive, assuredly. But sweepingly comprehensive, hardly.” Now if only I can find a way to use tergiversation and apodictic in some conversation…)
An online acquaintance recently posted a link on Facebook to an article Myths And Facts On U.S.-Israel Diplomatic Row. In it, the anonymous author seeks to state for the record what the myths and facts are regarding the recent diplomatic tension between Israel and the US. I responded that I think that it is laughable how this purported “fact check” gets the facts wrong and instead tries to put its own agenda-driven spin on the situation. Here is my take on their facts: Read the rest of this entry »
Last Purim we received for Mishloach Manot a bottle of liquor that was not quite to our taste. It sat in the closet for the entire year. So when Purim came around this year, we thought that it would be the perfect thing to regift to someone else – after all, someone might like it, and we were not going to drink it.
So we put in in with one of the Mishloach Manot that we were delivering (we tried to pick people who we thought might like it). Brought it to their door (in the pouring rain). The husband answered the door. Took the mishloach manot from us, and then felt like he had to give us one back in return.
When he came back, he gave us a pre-packed Mishloach Manot (which were almost certainly brought by someone else and regifted to us) as well as the very same bottle of liquor that we just gave to him.
We are pretty sure that he entered his kitchen, put our Mishloach Manot + liquor down, went to a different table, picked out something that was just brought to him and went to bring it back to us. On the way out of the kitchen, he then passed the bottle of liquor that we brought him, and thought that it would be nice to give it as well, all the while not remembering that we had just given it to him (I don’t think that he did it on purpose).
We were both pretty shocked when he handed it back to us, but managed to keep a straight face and not say anything about it. So now the bottle of liquor is back in the closet, in wait of next Purim when hopefully we will be able to give it away without receiving it immediately back in return.
There is a good article by Danny Ayalon in the Wall Street Journal called “Israel’s Right in the ‘Disputed’ Territories“:
The recent statements by the European Union’s new foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton criticizing Israel have once again brought international attention to Jerusalem and the settlements. However, little appears to be truly understood about Israel’s rights to what are generally called the “occupied territories” but what really are “disputed territories.”
That’s because the land now known as the West Bank cannot be considered “occupied” in the legal sense of the word as it had not attained recognized sovereignty before Israel’s conquest. Contrary to some beliefs there has never been a Palestinian state, and no other nation has ever established Jerusalem as its capital despite it being under Islamic control for hundreds of years
It lays out very clearly the history of the West Bank, and why the term “Occupied Territories” is inaccurate. Good reference material for a discussion on the matter (since most people just accept the fact that this term is correctly applied – the more something is repeated, the more credence it is given).