Read me my rights

Every immigrant is familiar with the feeling of helplessness when they have an issue but have no idea where to turn.

Money rights (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Money rights
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
‘I bought a pair of shoes that turned out to be too small. I only realized that when I tried them on that evening at home. After I returned the shoes, the shop offered to order them in my size. It has been over a month, and the shoes haven’t arrived yet. Can I get my money back?”
“It is impossible to get through to the Interior Ministry to make an appointment. You can only do it on line (so you need a computer), and they never call you back. What to do?” “Two people in our apartment building refuse to pay for a broken pipe that serves us all. What can I do about it?” “My tenant refuses to move out – and owes me rent. I heard that in Israel you can’t throw anyone out onto the street. Is that true?” “Our mother needs 24-hour-a-day help, and it is terribly expensive to hire an Israeli worker. How can we get permission for a foreign worker? Can we get help to cover the cost?” “My cellphone company is charging me for a phone that I don’t have! I have tried to cancel it over and over.
What can I do?” “How do I cancel a faulty transaction if I gave post-dated checks?” Need some answers? Don’t know who to call? Help is at hand. You will find it within the Jerusalem Municipality and through a variety of government and nonprofit organizations. All you have to do is call the numbers listed below. Most of the people you will be speaking to are volunteers and are just waiting for your call.
This is the first of a series of columns meant to provide important information for people living in Israel. Following this first offering, full of telephone numbers and office names, there will be articles on health care, foreign workers, the National Insurance Institute’s Nursing Care Law (hok siud), consumer law, issues with the Interior Ministry, the National Insurance Institute and other government offices, rights and services for people with disabilities, small claims and labor courts, help for families and people suffering from dementia/Alzheimer’s, information on nursing care institutions and senior residences and more.
I have noted below how to reach an actual person if a recording answers in Hebrew. Once you succeed, and if you are not fluent in Hebrew, slowly ask, “Do you speak English?” Almost everyone does.
To ensure that your call is answered, try making it at least 15 minutes after the time advertised as the hour the service opens. In the same vein, call at least 15 minutes before closing time.
I have tried all the numbers below and have refrained from publishing those services where – consistently – no one answered or returned my call.
All telephone numbers are (02) personalized except where otherwise stated.

MUNICIPAL OFFICES AND MUNICIPAL VOLUNTEER SERVICES:
THE CITIZENS’ ADVICE BUREAU (SHIL in Hebrew)
It offers advice about dealing with consumer issues, problematic neighbors, labor laws, questions about National Insurance, foreign workers, accidents and anything else you have a question about. Tel: 629-7144; 629- 7227. Hours: Sunday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

CENTER FOR ENABLING RIGHTS – Jerusalem Western District
Volunteers will happily answer many questions, especially about rights and services. On some other subjects, you may be referred to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau (SHIL, see above). Tel: 545-6909.
Hours: Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday 9:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

CENTER FOR ENABLING RIGHTS – Jerusalem Southern District
Call with questions about your rights, services and any other question you have. Tel: 545-7878. Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

CENTER FOR ENABLING RIGHTS – Jerusalem Eastern District
The center is meant specifically for residents of Arab neighborhoods (350,000 people) who have issues with health services, National Insurance, the Interior Ministry and the municipality. Tel: 582-3054. Hours: Monday 9 a.m. to noon; Wednesday 3 pm. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

CENTER FOR ENABLING RIGHTS – Jerusalem Northern District
Advice about rights, services, basically anything, but specifically for people who live in northern Jerusalem. Tel: 545-7945. Hours: Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

CENTER FOR ENABLING RIGHTS FOR CONTRACTED WORKERS (Kablanut)
The center assists people who work for a contracting company to receive the rights to which they are legally entitled. Tel: 545-6491. Hours: Tuesday 9 a.m. to noon; Wednesday 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

CENTER FOR ENABLING SENIOR RIGHTS – Beit Hoffman
An excellent, helpful general resource. Call with any question at all. Legal counsel available. Tel: 678-8399. Hours: Monday 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Wednesday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

THE MUNICIPAL MEDIATION CENTER
It provides mediation for parties that have disputes in all areas, with a high proportion of divorce and family issues. Call for information and advice on how to proceed. Tel: 629-5787. Hours: Sunday to Thursday.

106 – FOR REPORTING HAZARDS
There is no recording in English, and the recording often changes. Press 1 for Hebrew, then press 1 again (to file a complaint with the city or report a hazard) and wait through the next recording for someone to come on the line.

THE JERUSALEM CENTER FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING
This pilot program provides answers to questions and assistance for Jerusalem adults (over 18) with a variety of disabilities (physical, emotional, cognitive, sensory, etc.). Tel: 648-1460. Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. A recording answers in Hebrew, but if you press 0 (for operator), you will reach an actual person. If you don’t speak Hebrew, ask for Henia.

MUNICIPAL IMMIGRANTS BUREAU
Here, friendly people are interested in helping very new immigrants from any country to take advantage of their rights. Tel: 623-4365. Hours: Tuesday 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.; Wednesday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. After the Hebrew message, press 0 to reach a person. Walk-ins on Monday and Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 36 Jaffa Road, 3rd floor.

OTHER VERY HELPFUL ORGANIZATIONS:

THE ASSOCIATION FOR AMERICANS AND CANADIANS IN ISRAEL (AACI)
It serves the English-speaking community in Israel. Members participate in activities, lectures, classes, etc., and are entitled to free consultations on a variety of subjects. Even if you are not a member, you can call the AACI hotline to get information and advice about life in Israel plus information about issues dealing with your home country (passport renewal, voting information, etc.). Tel: 566- 1181. Hours: Sunday to Thursday 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS MINISTRY
It answers questions about private and public cemeteries, plots, funerals. Tel: 531-1111. Hours: 24 hours a day except Shabbat.

KEN LAZAKEN (Literally “Yes personalized for the elderly”)
Call with any questions or ask for help in dealing with rights, issues, problems (with the exception of neighbor disputes) for seniors. Tel: *2284. Calls are answered 24 hours a day by a person from a service that works with several companies. The service sends an email to Ken Lazaken, and someone from the organization calls you back.

CHAIM V’CHESSED
This is a wonderful resource specifically for English speakers who need help navigating Israel’s intricate and frustrating bureaucracy. The nonprofit organization offers advice and all kinds of assistance. Tel: 072-243-7733. Hours: Sunday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. English hotline for messages 24 hours a day.

NATIONAL INSURANCE INSTITUTE USER-FRIENDLY SERVICES FOR SENIORS:
1. The new Advice for the Elderly service provides information and advice about rights and community services relevant to seniors and their families. The friendly volunteer who picks up the phone when you call also offers a sympathetic ear. Tel: *9696. Hours: Sunday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
2. English-language service for seniors and their families. A recording in English asks you to leave a message, and someone definitely calls back. Tel: 646-3404. Hours: 24 hours a day.

OFFICE FOR SENIOR CITIZENS (belongs to the Social Equality Ministry)
For questions regarding issues relating to your status as a senior citizen. Although this may change, the phone answers with only a Hebrew recording (even the English menu is in Hebrew). Tel: *8840. Hours: Sunday to Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. When the recording answers, press 3 for English and then 3 for a person and wait.

AGUDA LE’TARBUT HADIUR (the association for better housing)
If your building’s house committee pays a small annual fee (NIS 30 per apartment) to this association, you can get a variety of help with residents who won’t pay fees, as well as all kinds of house-related issues. Even if you are not members, you can call and get advice on how to set up a house committee (va’ad bayit) as required by law. More detailed questions will be referred to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Tel: *8484 during office hours (Sunday to Thursday.) After the Hebrew recording, press 1 and wait for someone to answer.

EMUN HATZIBUR (CIVIC TRUST)
This is a non-governmental organization that promotes businesses and service providers who operate fairly. But more importantly, for our purposes, it handles tens of thousands of complaints annually and is a viable alternative to the Israel Consumer Council (which does not take phone calls and rarely answers emails or faxes). A Civic Trust hotline (answered in Hebrew, English, Amharic, Spanish and Russian) operates Sunday to Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tel: (03) 560-6069 for questions on any consumer issue.
For those with computers, you can obtain additional information in English on many issues on the following websites: www.familycare.co.il www.kolzchut.org.il (then click on All Rights at the top left-hand corner for English) http://www.btl.gov.il/English%20 Homepage/Pages/default.aspx The AACI Shira Pransky Project website

Please do not write to me with specific questions, as I will not be able to answer them within the context of this column. Indeed, that is what all the preceding phone numbers are for.
However, please let me know of other helping organizations in Jerusalem that give free advice. If you have something to add, if there is a problem with any of the services described above or if there is a general issue that you would like to have discussed, please email consumerjpost@ gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you – and I promise to respond.