Nachman Shai refers to Israeli bureaucracy as chaotic 'Disneyland ride'

The Labor candidate shared his experience after his long-anticipated return and explained why he feels optimistic about the upcoming elections.

MK Nachman Shai (photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
MK Nachman Shai
(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
After waging a relentless campaign for several weeks, Labor’s No. 8 candidate, Nachman Shai, was finally allowed to return to Israel ahead of the upcoming March 23 election.
Having been running his political campaign from his home kitchen in Durham, North Carolina, where he had been teaching at Duke University for the past year and half, Shai thought the hard part was behind him.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post from home isolation, Shai shared his experience from his long-anticipated return and explained why he feels optimistic about the upcoming election.
Shai first tried to receive approval to enter the country by sending an online request to Israel’s exceptions committee, in charge of approving all departures and arrivals to Israel. Avoiding using personal connections that probably would have expedited the process, he tried to receive an approval the same way as the thousands of Israelis who were stranded abroad since Israel closed its skies in late January.
“These are services that every Israeli citizen must be able to receive,” Shai insists, explaining his decision to avoid “calling in favors.”
But after being denied entrance, and with the election fast approaching, Shai realized that he was facing a problem.
“So I turned to the Labor Party,” he says. “I provided a letter explaining the situation, I presented my arguments – and nothing happened. They did not accept any of it, and simply denied my request again.”
Shai then turned to other options. “It took about five days [following the second rejection] before I reached the decision to start a media campaign,” which is something with which Shai has some experience, having served as IDF spokesperson between 1989 and 1991.
Things finally started to work out. “Five days after giving an interview to Aryeh Golan at Israel Radio, my third request was approved,” but not before the Health Ministry had denied his entrance again, before pre-approving it one last time.
THE MOST difficult part throughout the entire ordeal, Shai said, was obscure paperwork and lack of communication on the part of the exceptions committee and the Health Ministry.
“No one tells you anything, no one cares to explain the situation,” Shai said, noting that even now, he is not sure why home isolation is required of him. “I’ve been trying to get answers, to understand why I need to be quarantined. You keep running from place to place, looking for answers, and no one has them.”
Shai believes this is only the tip of the iceberg. The lack of available information reflects the public’s growing lack of trust in its government. “They tell one thing, and then they tell you another thing,” he said. “The public doesn’t believe its government anymore.”
Shai used Disneyland as a metaphor to describe his chaotic experience. “It’s like a visit to Disneyland, with people shoving you in different directions and telling you where to go – but no one actually knows where anything is.”
Referring to the upcoming election, Shai said he had high hopes for change.
“The Labor Party has gone through a great change – our list is one of renewal – including both young representatives and experienced ones,” Shai said, adding that Labor Party leader “Merav [Michaeli] has brought with her a new spirit, offering something new. The Labor Party has a clear ideology, while most other parties today do not.”
Addressing reports from earlier on Thursday about some 50 members of his party being kicked out after expressing support for Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, Shai said that people need to decide where they stand.
“I know these people, they are my friends,” he said. “But people who decide to support a party can’t expect to remain active members in a different party.”