How a 15 Minute Conversation Changed Everything

Keren Fishzon, CEO of Magen Mishpacha tells the following story:

 

An elderly couple contacted her at a meeting with Russian immigrants at the Jerusalem community center “Matnas Phillip Leon”. They found themselves in debt to the Bituach Leumi (National Insurance) even though given their income they should have not owed the amount Bituach Leumi was charging them.

 

Ms. Fishzon arranged to go to Bituach Leumi with the couple to try and sort the problem out.  The first clerk with whom they met admitted that she did not understand the problem, as she had only started working for Bituach Leumi fairly recently. Thus, we requested that she find someone to help them who would be better able to understand their problem and have the knowledge to help.  They were thus referred to the appropriate personnel. 

 

However, this clerk immediately began in a negative tone. “Don’t show me your papers, I have everything in the computer. Do you think that we have not taken your pension from your country of origin into account as income? ​” she said. There appeared to be an implication that this couple was trying to “cheat the system”. 

 

We asked her to look at the calculations which the couple had prepared for her.  Each of these amounts are confirmed by a document from an employer. ” ​, said Ms. Fishzon

 

But this official who, following the letter of the law, for a year, had taken away all the money the couple earned on the top of the standard benefit as well as vacation pay (1,000 shekels), health-related pay (1,300 shekels) and holiday gifts from the employer (100 shekels per holiday), insisted:​

 

“I have all the papers from the employer in my computer. I do not need your explanations. If you do not agree, file a complaint. The commission will review and recount everything.” ​

 

“Our organization has no problem filing a complaint on behalf of this couple immediately. However, we’ve come to you in the hope that we could sort this out without having to file a formal complaint.”

 

And then, suddenly, the clerk asks:

 

“This woman has two places of work, right?” ​

 

“No,” Ms. Fishzon responded, “she doesn’t.” ​

 

“Maybe her husband works?” ​

 

“No,” the woman said. “My husband was fired a year ago, the day he reached retirement age.” ​

 

“Bring the paper confirming that the husband doesn’t work.” ​

 

“We’ve brought it,” the couple said, after Ms. Fishzon translated the official’s request into Russian for them. ​ The document was submitted, and with that, the debt was erased. 

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