Last Updated 9/22/2019 at 2:30 PM
Jerusalem: “You want passport? Meet me at 6 in the morning. Don’t worry about computer.”
It was with this cryptic reply that our Daily Freier reporter first encountered Magda, a Polish-born Olah with a reputation as a ‘fixer’ in the government bureaucracy. I needed a passport for my son and the Misrad HaPnim (Ministry of the Interior) website showed no appointments available for months.
“If there’s anything we learned in Poland, it was how to stand in line.” noted Magda as we arrived at the Misrad Hapnim office at 6 AM. “Website not important. If you come early enough they always let you in.” Amazingly enough, a line soon formed, consisting of everyone who isn’t using the website: Senior Citizens, the Haredim, and former Soviet Bloc citizens who chatted in Russian while smiling with a faint tinge of nostalgia. And yes, they gave me a number and processed my passport even though I didn’t make an appointment online. Who knew that would actually work?
“Your cousin needs papers signed? Meet me at Aroma in one hour.” was Magda’s reply when I called in a panic about my cousin Shlomo, a Lone Soldier who needed to get medical paperwork signed immediately and couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment.
Shlomo and I rushed to Aroma and Magda was waiting for us on the street. “Go inside and buy a box of rugelach.” Magda ordered him. As a Lone Soldier, Shlomo found this confusing. “Buy something? Like, actually pay money?” But Magda was insistent. “No rugelach, No paper.”
As we entered the Kupat Cholim (Insurance HMO) office, rugelach in hand, Magda explained: “Kupat Cholim secretary is Queen of the office. If you want help, you bring gifts.” And yes, after handing the secretary the pastries, she was surprisingly helpful and let Shlomo see the doctor for just a second to get his paper signed.
“In Poland, we knew how to get things done.” Magda explained. “Communism wasn’t such a bad system, it was just different…but we knew how to get around it.” This reporter was surprised at Magda’s candor and suggested that perhaps she could leverage her expertise in dealing with Israeli government bureaucracies into a successful business venture. Magda laughed. “You Americans and your jokes. Open a business? What does that mean.. open… a… business? Who do you think I am? The Minister of Labor or something? That’s funny. You Americans!”