The Day After the American Elections in Jerusalem

I just had a meeting with the representative of my organization’s insurance company.  One meets with this type of rep to cover the rainbow of coverages – first and foremost to decide on your pension plan, then to see if you want additional life insurance, and finally to decide if you want to extend your extra health coverage to your spouse or children (Apparently, our socialized medicine system is not so complete, but I have to say that even this extra health coverage costs no more than $20 a month)

The meeting takes almost two hours to make a few relatively simple decisions.  But it was my first time having such a conversation and I wanted to learn all the different terms, especially as it is no secret that numbers and financial matters are not my strong point.  I wondered how much he was “selling” me and I was buying his version of what to buy or not.  Though he seemed like a nice enough guy. 

Of course, the social issues always are lying between the lines. 

My insurance representative wears a crocheted kippa (kippa seruga) marking him as an Orthodox Zionist.  When I referred to my husband as ben-zugi (literally “my male partner”) rather than the traditionally used ba’ali (literally “my master”), he was very respectful of this and made sure always to call my husband ben-zugi and even to write it this way on his form. 

As he typed my street address into the form, he asked if I live in Jerusalem.  I was surprised that he didn’t know my street, so I asked him if he is coming from Jerusalem.  Though his office is in Jerusalem, he lives in Efrat.  This is a quite large and established town in the West Bank settlements. 

He also had to put my profession into the form.  I told him, “Rav.” (rabbi)  He said, “That’s your profession?”  I said, “Yes.” After a few moments of typing other information, he said, “What a second, isn’t a woman rabbi called rabba?”  I said, “Yes, actually.”  He said, “So, why don’t we enter it that way?”  I said, “It doesn’t matter to me.”  So he changed my profession to rabba. As part of his questionnaire, he asked me if I have dangerous hobbies (I think he meant skydiving and the like).  I said no and joked, It’s my profession that might be considered more dangerous.  We both laughed and agreed – dangerous only in certain neighborhoods.  Though he added, “Though those people wouldn’t even consider you as that.”

As on many forms in Israel, they ask when you made aliyah to Israel. After I told him the date (September 3, 2005), he asked, “Are you happy with your decision to live here?”  My reply, “Yes, of course.  Why?”  Him: “It just seems to me that life is better and easier in America.”  My reply: “People have problems everywhere.”

Finally, my office was buzzing around me with the news of the results of the American elections.  I told my insurance rep, “I voted for Obama.”  He asked me why.  I explained (in the most simple way possible as he had already stood up and was on his way out), “I’m a liberal on social issues and I think he is good for Israel.” I explained how I think that a good friend also helps you to make peace.  He then brought up the Oslo accords and explained how they failed and how we don’t have a partner on the other side.  I said it’s hard to say whether there was failure or the solution was the wrong one or if other things happened along the way, but the fact of the matter is that American presidents have been a part of making agreements that an Israeli prime minister has not been able to do alone and we must always be working to find a solution – whatever it will be.  He said, Maybe our leaders don’t have the courage to make peace?  Or perhaps there is simply no one to talk to, no chance for peace in the current situation.  I said, I think peace is a very difficult thing and demands a very courageous and wise leader to make peace.  And in most situations I believe that our leader will need the backing and pushing of an outside friend to truly make it happen. He said –

My phone rang.  I was 15 minutes late to my next meeting.

We both smiled, chuckled a bit, and said, “Todah Rabbah – Thank you very much.  Shalom.”


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