I didn't realize how negligent I had been, but after a quick check I see that I haven't written since April. Apologies to my loyal readers.
Fortunately, not writing does not imply that there's been nothing going on. Au contraire. Lots has happened.
One thing about Israel is that is a country comprised primarly by Jews. This is not a news flash to even the most ignorant person out there. But what most people don't understand is that living in a country of Jews means that when it comes to getting a good bargain -- or not being a "fryer" (sucker) -- all of the most clever players are playing in the same ball park. Shopping and bargaining in Israel is sort of like playing in the NHL All-Star Game every day.
Last week one of my friends told me that if I went through my national medical insurer's dental program, I could get a better price on my daughter's pre-orthodontic xrays than if I paid privately -- which, until that little news flash, I had fully intended to do. And, being true to my nature, I am not one to pass up a good bargain.
Off I went in search of the necessary dental administrative offices.
When I finally found them, I entered and asked the receptionist about what I had heard. She looked baffled and then she went off to check with a few coworkers. After they all quizzed me and generally looked perplexed they collectively agreed that "my friend's" information was incorrect. I left.
Once outside I called my friend and told her what had happend. "No," she said. "You went about this all wrong. Just go home now because they will be suspicious if you return with different information. I will tell you what to say before you go back."
I felt ridiculous that I couldn't follow her instructions so I did as she said. I went home.
A few days later, armed with a much more clever and subtle approach, I went back to the national dental administrative offices. I took a number to open a file in my daughter's name. After sitting for about 10 minutes, one of the women at the service counter (who appeared to be doing nothing at all but definitely wasn't servicing anyone) called out in Hebrew: "What do you need?" Apparently I looked out of place.
Armed with better information, I explained in Hebrew what I needed and once again I got that perplexed, baffled look. I was starting to wonder if it was something about me or my hebrew that was throwing them off.
"Come here," she said. "Now tell me again what you want." And I proceeded to do so.
"There's no such thing," she told me curtly.
"I heard there was," I responded -- undeterred.
"Where did you hear this?" she asked.
"From one of my friends in synagogue," I responded.
"Oh," she said subtly rolling her eyes in that immigrants-in-synagogue way. How long have you lived here (it is blatantly obvious from my Hebrew skills that I am not a native)?"
"Nine years," I muttered a quietly as possible. I knew what was coming next.
"Really? Why isn't your Hebrew better? And why don't you know what to do? How long has your friend lived here?"
Since I had so many options on which question to answer first I said: "My daughter didn't need braces until now so of course I didn't know what to do." And then I added: "where do you think immigrants get their information? FROM EACH OTHER!" I skipped the question about my hebrew skills altogether.
"Okay," she then said in very good English. "Here's what you have to do," and she proceeded to explain the whole process to me.
"I understand everything now," I answered in English. "Thanks for all your help."
And as I got up to leave, she smiled a little smirkishly and said: "No problem and say hello to your smart friends in synagogue for me."