Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Yesh Li Telefon Cellulari

A-Plus: 1 Week, 1 Day

I have cut through the Gordian knot at last. My appointment with Misrad HaKlitah (the Absorption Ministry) is tomorrow morning. I absolutely MUST have a bank account by then so that when I go in I can give them an account number to begin depositing the payments which are a part of the Sal Klitah (absorption basket) that every new immigrant gets during their first year in Israel.

My mind is numb to the endless stream of options and deals that the various major banking chains are offering, so I decided that I would just get an account in the center of Jerusalem, that way no matter where I end up I would always be at most a single bus ride away. I then talked to cousin Rafi, and he recommended Mercantile Discount Bank. They have good web accessibility, a reasonable fee schedule, and a good service reputation. Sold!

I went in and talked to the manager. I tried to negotiate a discount, as some banks negotiate lower fee schedules for new immigrants. The manager was quite enthusiastic about my aliyah, "Magia lecha mazal tov!" (you deserve a Mazal Tov), but no discounts. But I decided to open the account anyway. One thing I liked about the bank is that it was orderly, clean, and there were no lines for anything, even in the middle of the day, unlike the major banks (Poalim, Leumi, etc.) which I saw. As I walked out the door, the manager came and shook my hand, "I wish you an easy and painless absorption. Good luck and congratulations."

My new account in hand, I marched over to the Pelephone (cellular provider) office. I had already written down every offer and program from the three cellular service providers (Orange, Cellcom, and Pelephone) and performed a cost-benefit analysis in Microsoft Excel. Pelephone had the best deal, and I walked in there, bank account in hand, ready to order. While filling out the paperwork, the clerk looked up.

"You have an accent. Where from?"
"San Francisco"
"Aaaah. Beautiful city."
"Everyone says that."
"Yes. I've never been, but everybody told me so. So are you oleh chadash?"
He pushed aside the paperwork.
"Excellent. I have a better program for you than any of these. 38 agurot per minute anywhere in Israel. Any time of the day or night. Zero monthly fees. If you don't use it, you don't have to pay anything."

I pulled out my Pocket PC and punched the numbers in the calculator, comparing them to my Excel spreadsheet. He was right, that was by far the best deal in town.

"So why didn't they tell me about this at the Pelephone store in Pisgat Ze'ev?"
"They knew about it, but they couldn't tell you anything. There are only two authorized sellers for this program in the Jerusalem area, and I'm one of them. And I'm supposed to sell it door to door, so if anyone asks you, tell them that I knocked on your door. I am from Pisgat Ze'ev too, so it makes sense."

The semi-illegality made it all the more thrilling.

Looking down at the paperwork and beginning the purchasing process, he kept talking, "You were on that airplane with the 600 immigrants last week, weren't you?"
"Yeah, I was on the Toronto flight."
"Kol haKavod," (way to go), "It's very good that you made aliyah right now. It gives us strength. We lost 150 of our best soldiers up north, which was sad, so it's good we have olim. I made aliyah from Ukraine 15 years ago. But you speak English, you will do better. Nobody wants to hear Russian. You look like your people came from Russia, no?"
"I suppose about a hundred years ago."

We finished the paperwork and I had my phone. The Kupat Cholim (health fund, HMO) offices were closed, so I'll have to go tomorrow. But I will finally be on the apartment-hunting scene tomorrow afternoon, to check out a place in Talpiot, in central-southern Jerusalem.

And if any future or current olim out there want the name and number of the guy who gave me the great deal on the cel phone, be sure to email me!

1 comment:

Emah S said...

Don't ya love it! Good luck with apt. hunting.