Bituah Leumi — 15-minute Conversation

Keren Fishzon, CEO of the NGO “Magen Mishpacha” tells:

This elderly couple contacted me at a meeting with repatriates in the Jerusalem community center (matnas) Phillip Leon. They unexpectedly found themselves in debt to the National Insurance Institute (Bituah Leumi - BL), although the amount they earned when receiving benefits did not exceed the established “ceiling” of 600 shekels, and all the necessary documents were delivered to the BL on time.

To solve the problem, we met at the Bituah Leumi and, together, approached an official. Hearing out the beginning of the story, the official admitted that she does not understand the problem, since she started working for the BL only recently. We asked her to find a competent person, and she called an official from the right department.

The latter immediately took an offensive:

“Don’t show me your papers, I have everything in the computer. Do you think that we  haven’t taken your  pension from the country of origin into account as an income?

I wanted her to look at the calculations made by the repatriates:

“These figures have been put down for your convenience. Each of them is confirmed by a paper from an employer.”

The 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 don’t agree, file a complaint. The commission will review and recount everything.”

“Our NGO will file a complaint immediately, we’ve just come to you in the hope to sort it out without complaint. It’s a pity that we failed.”

And suddenly:

“This woman works at two places, doesn’t she?!”

“No,” I said, “she doesn’t.”

“Maybe her husband works?”

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

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

“We’ve brought it,” the pensioner said, after I translated the official’s request into Russian for him.

And here we heard a wonderful sentence:

“Do you want to bring it again or wait until we find it?”

For someone, 12-thousand-shekel debt is not a big deal especially since you can break it into payments, but for the elderly who receive a benefit of 3,000 shekels monthly deduction of 600 shekels is a major setback.

For a year, that couple could not get a common explanation. A calculated deception? Or just disorder? Or simple fecklessness?

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