Gefilte Fish Out of Water


Bankers in New York are poor. In Tel Aviv, they’re jerks (so far).
March 4, 2009, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Official Immigrant Stuff, Struggles

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The next really important thing I have to do is open a bank account.  From what I’m told, the banks all suck in Israel.  What I mean is, there’s a fee for everything – checking your balance at an ATM (fee), writing a check (fee), depositing a check (fee); it’s like all fees.  Savvy peeps avoid some of them by banking online, but it’ll be tough for me,  b/c not all the banks have English companion sites.

The bank account is critical though, b/c it’s how I’ll receive the rest of my Sal Kittah (monthly immigrant stipend).  Also, when I see the doctor, they’ll swipe my Maccabbe card and automatically deduct 19 sheckels ($4.63) from my account, as a tiny co-pay.

It’s been suggested that I go with one of the big three – Discount Bank, Bank Hapoalim, or Bank L’eumi.  I called the AACI (Americans and Canadians in Israel) to set up a counseling appointment, and over the phone they told me to be sure to ask what kinds of deals they offer to “olim” (new immigrants) and also to ask to speak to the branch manager and that s/he or someone else always there speaks good English, so I’ll feel understood.  It’s also important to make sure their ATMs are available in English, too.  Discount Bank’s definitely are.

In Israel you have to go into your specific bank branch that you opened the account at for almost all transactions.  This has to do with strict anti-money laundering rules.  And it means the branch you open your account at should be convenient to where you live or work.  A bit tough for me since I don’t have a permanent place yet, so I’m choosing one near my office.

Anyway, this morning I set out looking for the Bank Hapoalim branch closest to my office.  I tried looking on the website, but they had no “find a branch” feature, and when I called the 800 number, it was only in Hebrew.  (No, “for English, press one” – bastards!)  So, I was on my own, and I was faring poorly.  The weight of my new immigrant status was weighing upon me.  I was struggling.

That’s when I bumped into a woman I met when I was on vacation here during the holidays.  She didn’t recognize me at first; said I had lost weight (thank you, Master Cleanse).  I walked her to a dress shop, where she tried on a flowing, flowerly pant suity dress thing she had made for a Purim party.  She told me there is always a party @ 3pm on Friday between the dress shop and the wine shop next door and that all the cute gay guys come to it.  I was invited!  Hello!

She also informed me that there was a Bank Hapoalim around the corner.  I walked up only to see the door be closed and locked shut.  I had arrived just as it closed.  😦   I knocked on the door in hopes of a banker taking pitty on a little ole’ Oleh like me, but no one answered.  There was a guy on a bench outside.  I tried to ask him for help finding another branch that might be open, but he said he didn’t speak English.  When he finished his smoke, he unlocked the door and went inside.  He worked there!  Jerk.

I’m going to nail the bank thing tomorrow.  To make up for not getting into the bank today, I went and made a doctor appointment so I can get regular prescriptions filled.  Tomorrow morning at 10am.

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