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In a well-known Monty Python film, at intervals the door of a room bursts open and in rush a band of men in medieval costume, armed with swords. A quivering voice from within the room, whimpers: "I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition" and a gruff voice responds: "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition."
I have news. Torquemada is here among us and is running our government offices. New modernized tortures have been finely honed.
I have many examples, especially from the Ministry of Defense, in my Via Dolorosa as a bereaved parent. Here is one, encompassing also the Ministry of Health.
After the death of my husband in 2005, my then shaky health deteriorated rapidly, in particular with regard to a walking disability and acute progressive osteoarthritis. I needed a walker in order to move the relatively short distances essential for even a restricted life.
I turned to Yad Sarah, an organization which, on the basis only of a signature and a small deposit, loaned me a walker for four months.
I now needed to buy my own walker. I did so.
Among the benefits due to bereaved parents is a contribution from the Ministry of Defense toward its cost. I contacted the MOD social worker for my area and asked what documents she needed me to send her for a partial refund.
Don't think this is easy: Allow an average of 10 calls and three days to get through to the right person. Do not leave messages, they will not be answered. Likewise, promises that an appropriate person will call you back. It will never happen. Buy shares in Bezek.
I FOUND out - eventually - that I needed to supply a letter from my doctor proving I needed a walker (and wasn't just trying to acquire one for home decoration); a letter from the Ministry of Health that they had not already given me a grant for this purpose; and the original receipt.
It also turns out there is a self-contribution to the cost, so we are talking about a refund of NIS 150.
I obediently called the Ministry of Health and asked for a letter stating I hadn't applied to them for a grant for a walker. I was told I must submit this request in writing. I wrote them to this effect, though writing in Hebrew is not one of my greater abilities.
I received no reply (naturally). When I inquired by telephone two weeks later, I was told I could not receive a letter such as I needed. Instead, I would have to make a request for a grant, and if it was refused I would then get a letter testifying they had not given me any grant. The whole process would take several months.
I informed the clerk that since my income is just above the NIH roof beyond which I am not eligible for assistance from the Health Ministry, such an application could not be accepted, and applying would be a waste of everyone's time.
THE INQUISITION now took over. I was told I must make an application even if I was not eligible, and wait for it to be turned down. I would then have the letter.
I did not ask, but the clerk sent me the forms for applying for a grant for a walker from our Ministry of Health. Torquemada himself probably designed them. The way is long and cruel.
My family doctor was required to fill in a form (three to four pages), listing all my illnesses and how they were treated. (What relevance does childhood bronchitis have to do with the walking needs of an 83-year-old woman?) Further, a nurse had to fill in an additional form and finally (another turn of the screw), a physiotherapist had to provide a letter. I also had to supply a detailed account of all my sources of income.
I also had to send three cost estimates from three different sources. Since I know of only two shops selling orthopedic equipment in my town, this would entail a journey to the next one, and taxi fares.
I am hereby informing the Inquisition that I recant. I give up.
Defense and Health Ministry employees tell me they are not allowed to communicate with each other. I am not prepared to ask three hard-working professionals to provide lengthy irrelevant information to no purpose. Nor am I going to spend a day and taxi fares seeking three meaningless cost proposals. (Meaningless, because the cost depends on what you want: a folding model, so you can put it in the car and use it for shopping; with or without a seatâ€¦ and so on. The choice also depends on sturdiness and a weight and height that is comfortable to manage. Who can decide this for me, but me?)
To date, I have spent (unsuccessfully) about 20 working hours trying to obtain this grant I am due.
The writer, originally from Edinburgh, made aliya in 1954 and lives in Rehovot. Currently a novelist, she is the former head of the information department and library at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center. She married the late Prof. Alvin M. Kaye of the Weizmann Institute in 1957. Their only child, David, was killed while on IDF service in 1979.