Sunday, April 13, 2008

Absorption Experience #5,016: Police Report

Something which used to be true, but isn't anymore, is that when dealing with Israeli bureacracy, it's best to bring a book, be prepared to wait for several hours, and then be prepared to be given some sort of run-around. These days, one who assumes that this "common knowledge" is always true will often be in for pleasant surprises. (Not always, but often.)

Last night I went to fill out a police report about my stolen backpack. Now, the Israeli police are not exactly known for being warm and fuzzy. And it's probably true that if I'd been in the police station because I, myself, had been suspected of having committed a crime -- petty or otherwise -- I probably would have had a much harder time.

But as it was, I was there to report that I'd been the victim of a crime. I got there prepared to wait for an hour or three and then to be "processed" by a bored and unfriendly clerk who couldn't care less that my bag was missing.

In truth, I waited for five minutes. There was no one ahead of me, and I just had to wait for the officer on duty to get off the phone. (Later, when I left, a line had built up with about 7 people in it; I guess I was lucky to have gotten there immediately after Shabbat ended.) In the waiting area were big posters, listing the rights of crime victims in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and Russian.

The woman who took my complaint was courteous and thorough. Yes, she picked up her ringing phone a few times, but it was clear that each of her calls was about internal police business and that she was getting off each call as quickly as she could. A few times I heard her tell the callers "I can't speak with you right now, I'm with a mitlonenet (complainant)." At one point another officer came in and interrupted, and she actually told him "you are going to have to wait until I finish filling out a report for this lady here." When I said "wow, that's good service," the other officer -- the one being rebuffed-- smiled and said "we like to give good service here."

What country am I in, again?!?

I also think it should be noted that everyone who hears that my passports were stolen has the same reaction. First, they express dismay because stolen passports can be used by terrorist groups for less-than-honorable purposes. Then they say: "Oh, getting a new Israeli one won't be a problem, because the Ministry of the Interior is pretty efficient. But you lost your American one? Oh, man. That means a trip to the American consulate. That sucks. I'm so sorry."

The times, they are a'changin'. (Except in the American consulate, which apparently is as mean-spirited as ever, including to American citizens.)

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