Thursday, October 26, 2006

Proteczia. Israel’s Vitamin P.

How does a Russian word like proteczia wind up one as of the most coveted words of modern spoken Hebrew? I guess it came along with the rest of the ills that accompanied Marxist Communism’s aliya to Israel, when Israel’s elite came almost exclusively from the Kibbutzim, and the socialist labor union, “The Histradrut” which ruled Israel with an iron fist.

Proteczia, for the unenlightened (or unfortunate, if they don’t have any), means “protection.” Protection from the “system” that allows you to bypass bureaucracy, rules, regulations, salary levels, prison, and can even open doors of opportunity – financial, military, government, commercial and institutional.

Some examples?

Your child has a cold and you need a certain (over the counter, though in extreme cases, proteczia can get you everything) medication for them. You call up the Kupat Cholim (HMO) and they are closed. You call up your neighbor (a nurse at the Kupat Cholim) and they have the key to the Kupa…and as a favor to you, they go to the Kupa with you and get the medication. If you weren’t friendly with this nurse or anyone within the local Kupa…meaning, you had no proteczia, you would probably have to go the pharmacy (shlep to the pharmacy) and pay more for it (provided you are lucky enough that the pharmacy to be open).

You’ve been job hunting in Israel for 6 months, and can’t find the job you want. You mention this to your friend in shul who says, “I hope you aren’t just sending your resume to different companies…if you really want an interview in the first place, you need to know someone on the inside. Give me your resume…” You send him your resume, and he talks to his friend in his company who is looking for someone that more or less matches your description. You get called for an interview…

There are 2 main parameters that determine the effectiveness and quality of your proteczia: how friendly are you with the person you are “cashing in the proteczia with”, and “how high up in the proteczia food chain” your friend is. Taking the above example: If your friend is a high-level manager, then the potential for you getting the job is higher, as well as having more potential to get a position you want. If the friend is a very good friend, then the likelihood of this scenario working out, improves.

A good example of this might be, how does a bimbo waitress become a Member of Knesset, or how does Bibi Netanyau’s secretary get to be a Member of Knesset and eventually, a Deputy Minister in the Israeli government? Friends in the right places…make all the difference. Or in one word, proteczia.

Yet…what does the poor oleh in Israel do? Alas, they make aliya, and their entire bank of connections, friends, and “proteczia” is left behind.

The Muqata Aliya Think-Tank has come up with a good solution for this (and if I had enough proteczia, perhaps I could get it implemented).

When olim from Western countries move to Israel, they are granted all sorts of tax-break benefits – reduced taxes on cars, furniture, appliances and the like. This totally annoys your average Israeli: “I live here my whole life, fight in the army, pay crazy taxes, have to deal with Jameel as a neighbor, and who gets a tax break? Those stupid, RICH olim? Why do they deserve ANYTHING – they should be penalized for moving here!” What the Israeli doesn’t realize is that the oleh IS being penalized for moving here – in that they lack the proteczia that the Israeli has. The Israeli has lots of proteczia, from his friends in the army, his friends from school, his chamula, (extended family)…and everyone helps everyone out. The oleh comes here with nothing.

My solution is as follows: Instead of the oleh getting the tax-breaks on different items, they should get a coupon book of “proteczia”. The idea is very simple:

You’ve been in Israel for close to 9 months, and you get a call from your bank. Apparently, they think you bounced a check. You know there’s a mistake since there’s money in your account… Without any proteczia, you would enter the bank, and wait on line…for a while. When you find someone to talk to, they send you to a different line…and you wait there as well. About the time you get to the correct teller, he/she goes on a break. You waste your whole morning, and the issue may or may not get resolved to your satisfaction over the course of the day, tomorrow, the following week, etc.

That’s old school.

With Jameel’s patent pending “Oleh Proteczia Plan (OPP)”, you rip out a coupon from your Ministry of Absorption –issued OPP booklet and enter the bank. You bypass the lines and walk directly to the bank manager’s office. He gives you a scowl (while not giving you the time of day) and you say, “Hey, Itzik! How’s it going? He gives you a puzzled look and says, “What are you doing in my office?” And you just smile and present your OPP coupon that says, “For Use in the Bank – the Bank Manager and your brother were in the same army unit together.” He takes one look and returns the smile, gives you a bearhug, and says, “Oh, how are you? Can I offer you something to drink? Please take a seat…what can I help you with?” Three minutes later you walk out of the bank, with your problem solved.

These coupons work for a whole myriad of situations;

Banks, Hospitals, Schools, Municipal offices, Car registration, Police, Mas Hachnasa & Bituach Leumi (IRS and social security) Ministry of Interior, Airlines, the IDF…even corporations!

Each oleh should receive a coupon book with enough coupons in it to last roughly 10 years. By then, you should have built up enough proteczia for yourself so that you won’t need any more coupons.

In the meantime, remember the old Israeli adage; If you have enough connections with people, you don’t need proteczia.

What’s your best proteczia story?

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Anonymous said...

I am not an olah, but while in yeshiva about 25 years ago, my friend bacame ill and was taken to Share Zedek. We were waiting for hours to see a doctor. While waiting I went up to the cafe and bumped into my parents friens uncle who I had delivered a package to a few weeks earlier. He asked what I was doing there, and upon hearing my plight, he escorted me back to the ER and had my friend seen and problem resolved hours earlier then it would have otherwise taken. It really works.

Anonymous said...

Usually it's just that my father, who sells 220v appliances and knows the head of El Al security through his business, is able to get them to go a little easy about overweight luggage issues. On the flipside, my brother who made aliyah with his family 2 years ago is a known prankster/liar in our family, but I fall for it every time. After a few months there, we were talking on the phone, and he said things are fine except for the makolet regulations. "What?" "You know, at the makolet, they make the new olim wait until all of the vatikim have done their shopping first. Then we have our pick of what's left. I'm getting used to it, but the kids really want milk!" When prompted, he quickly admitted that this was a total lie!

Anonymous said...

Actually I have no oleh nightmare stories... I think because I was / am deaf'sh they give me what I want / need right away.

My biggest protekzia is my cousin who is a doctor at meuchedet (which is the kupat cholim I have as well) he knows all the doctors etc... so I breeze in and out.

Another thing is, I live by kikar safara. going to goverment offices is a walk down the block!!

bituach leumi - ben shatach / ben saira. misrad hapnim, misrad haklita, ayara, doar, bank etc...

I just go to misrad hapnim / bituaach leumi. Get a number and go home etc.. and come back later or if any of my 3 roomates are going out in the morning I just say "hey get me a # at misrad ha-...." if i miss my turn moderately I just use the bathroom excuse.

No doubt I am building up a protekzia empire.. sure they can discriminate against a oleh BUT and big but.. I have all my israeli friends and all my american olim with israeli and army friends..

But just because me and shmuel meidad (head of choneinu) are close friends, dont mean I get a get out of jail card ;)

Mia said...

That was hilarious!!!! I love your OPP. I think it works the same way in every country, in Switzerland we called it Vitamin B (B=Beziehung=relation ship) and funnily even in conservative Switzerland Vitamin B is absolutely necessary.

By the way, When I made Aliyah in 97, I didn´t receive the full Oleh Chadash package as they claimed that coming from Switzerland I MUST be rich, which was of course not the case and I was pretty annoyed to be the only one in Ulpan paying for everything myself....

I didn´t know protekzia is a Russian word - that´s really interesting :D

YMedad said...

a. the whole object of being Jewish and at home is to have friends.

b. and as the saying goes, if you have friends, who needs protekzia?

c. think of it as a social process and then it isn't so bad.

YMedad said...

This is real protekzia:

Lindenstrauss finds evidence for investigating PM
By Yuval Yoaz, Haaretz Correspondent

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said in a letter submitted Wednesday to Attourney General Menahem Mazuz that he estimates there is sufficient evidence for a criminal investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's involvement in the sale of the controlling interest of Bank Leumi.

It is now up to Mazuz to decide whether to order an investigation into the affair.

An internal opinion in the State Prosecutor's Office recommends that a criminal investigation against Olmert be opened without delay. He is suspected of having acted to further the interests of two businessmen friends from abroad while serving as acting finance minister in 2005.

Olmert is suspected of interfering with the tender for the controlling interest in Bank Leumi to benefit businessmen S. Daniel Abraham and Frank Lowy. Olmert is also suspected of a conflict of interest through a law firm headed by Prof. Yossi Gross, Olmert's father-in-law, who dealt with Lowy's affairs in Israel.

In addition, Abraham had previously bought Olmert's Jerusalem home, at a price that was allegedly too high, while letting Olmert continue to live there and pay relatively low rent. It is thought that Abraham is one of the consortiums of private investors trying to receive approval from the Bank of Israel to purchase control of Bank Leumi, along with the group of Cerberus Capital Management and Gabriel Capital Management, which won the tender in November 2005.

Olmert's relationship with both businessmen is suspected of being tainted by bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Lindenstrauss told Mazuz about three months ago that the interim findings of the comptroller's report indicate possible criminal behavior, and asked whether he should stop his investigation so a police investigation can begin.

Anonymous said...

Well done! You pretty much hit the nail on the head with this post.
I don't think people realize how deeply entrenched the whole protexia culture is in Israel and how far reaching the ramifications are. One quick example: To be an IDF Spokesperson (Dover Tzahal) is one of the most coveted and sought after positions in the army. But, the people representing the IDF (and Israel) in the media when we need them the most (like during the recent war) are not telegenic, well spoken professionals with polish media training. They are children of privilege, or members of the well connected elite. It's no wonder that Israel lost the PR war over the summer during the war. I know 100 Anglo olim who are more qualified than the childlike hack the IDF put on FoxNews and CNN.
Lastly, I have a friend who served in the elite 8200 intelligence unit. In a conversation before the war, he once mentioned to me that his unit was a veritable "Who's Who" of children of the Israeli elite. If people with the right qualifications were serving in that unit, perhaps the entire war could have been avoided.

Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

Hilarious post and great idea Jameel. I just have one question, how is proteczia pronounced? I'm a bit of a word nerd...

Sarah Likes Green said...

i don't have any israel-proteczia stories that i can think of but that sort of thing happens in every community. it's nice to have relatives and friends who are well known so you can name drop!

Anonymous said...

that was a great post!
it's so true- it's all about who you know....

Anonymous said...

Barbarians do not need Protexia. We do what we will and take what we need. Yawp!

YMedad said...


Pro as in professional
Tek as in neck
Tzee as in, er, you know, the Hebrew letter Tzadee with a long e
Ya as in Da, Russian for 'yes'

Okay, Fern?

the only way i know said...

Very creative, Jameel!
I dont have protectzia stories - I just try and charm people at the time..

Fern @ Life on the Balcony said...

ymedad--Thanks! :-)

Anonymous said...

haha that is hysterical, jameel. brilliantly funny
(necessity IS the mother of invention..)

Anonymous said...

Very funny post -- I'm going to have to start using that word myself so that when people don't understand me I can explain!

Sabzi Aash said...

Mmmm .. could I take the tax breaks AND the protektzia coupons?

Anonymous said...

excellent.Our group has just received venture capital to develop artificial vitamin p in our laboratory.

Anonymous said...

I think there are different kinds of proteckzia, and olim have it too. Take, for example, a certain large Jerusalem high tech company ...
However I make it my business to be friendly to bus drivers and it really pays off. I've been dropped off between stops and even taken out of the driver's way, solely because I talk to them, ask them how they are, and they remember me. Is this proteckzia or or menchlichkeit?

westbankmama said...

C'mon Jameel, we American olim have our own protectzia - with other American olim! AACI, Tehilla, Nefesh B'Nefesh, etc. helps. Living in a yishuv for awhile also helps - people here help each other a lot. I think it is a matter of how long you live in the country more than anything else. The more people you know, the better it is.

tafka PP said...

Anonymous 11.13 PM:

What stations were you watching this summer? Dover Tzahal is CRAWLING with Olim, all who run rings around the generals- one of the best is an ulpan-mate of mine.

Jameel- I personally am blessed with lots of Proteczia in many spheres: But being English, I'm also reticent to use it!

rockofgalilee said...

This is a replay.

Anonymous said...

BTW My husband serves in Dover Tzahal in the reserves. He is a volunteer. It's true that it took three YEARS for him to transfer from tanks to Dover Tzahal (by which time he'd mustered out, so he HAD to volunteer), but he's in. We also have a neighbor who is in, who was on TV a LOT this past war, and who AFAIK does not have proteckzia but he's really good. :)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

WBM: You can't compare the proteczia of olim to that of tzabarim. So we have NBN? Big deal...that helps with our own limited world. And the same applies for yishuvim, they are still small, limited worlds compared to the rest of the country.

JoeSettler said...

wbm: Those groups are support groups and self-help groups. There's a world of difference between an organization designed to help you traverse the beaurocracy and not drown, vs. getting the job of CEO of a large corporation simply because you were in fighter pilot school with the other board members.

True there are small American circles but in a country of 6 million people, but all of IDT, JVP and NDS does not make for very impressive protektzia.

bec said...

hmmm.... the ultimate in proteczia?
the jblogosphere. why else would us future olim spend time blogging?

Sarah Likes Green said...

lol... i think bec's got a point there :)

... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

What a fabulous idea. So that's how its done. Gee, no wonder my dad and I were in the dark when we made aliyah.

That bank story just brought up memories from 20 years ago. I see times haven't changed in Israel afterall.

Anonymous said...

I didn't even realize how much proteczia I had built up until I arrived in the country this year. Suddenly, everyone was friends with my relatives by some odd coincidence...

And to think that some people don't appreciate family!

Adam Ehad said...

Interesting stuff. I've written a short piece about protektzia, which can be found here;

Search the Muqata


Related Posts with Thumbnails