Grapevine: Pathetic Israel Post

Movers and shakers in Israeli society.

Israel Postal Company mailbox (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Israel Postal Company mailbox
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The disappearance of post offices and the reduction of postal services are not only annoying but also a travesty. Many mail carriers do not place mail in the boxes of the people to whom mail is addressed if the boxes, instead of being inside the wall, are stuck onto the wall with a ledge running across them. Even when boxes are clearly marked with the names of their owners in Hebrew and English, the letters go on top of the ledge instead of in the respective mailbox. But at least they reach their destination. 

Not so in the case of various new immigrants who have opened cottage industries and are sending mail-order items abroad. Too many of these items never reach their destination, and the lack of proper postal services results in loss not only of income but also of trust. 

Mandy Broder recently posted on Facebook: “Israel Post! Why are you causing me so much aggravation? Sent package via EMS to the US. Received email from Israel Post that first name on the receipt is not the same as the name of the recipient. I explained that it’s a gift. That the name on the receipt is the person who paid for it, and the name on the package is the recipient.

“Just received this response (in Hebrew): ‘The taxation authorities want the two names to be identical.’ Does anyone have any advice for me? (Please don’t say avoid using Israel Post. That’s not an option at the moment).”

Janice Kaye replied that she no longer uses Israel Post because if she did, she would go bankrupt. She now sends her products via FedEx to Amazon warehouses and can use them to fulfill small orders. There are other negative comments on Facebook about Israel Post.

A woman stands at the counter inside a Israel Post office in Jerusalem (credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)A woman stands at the counter inside a Israel Post office in Jerusalem (credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

There’s also a scam about parcel delivery. Several people have received messages via electronic mail informing them that their parcel has arrived, and the cost for delivery can vary from as low as NIS 6 to almost NIS 70.

Having been the recipient of several such notices – although I didn’t order books, magazines, clothing or furniture – I simply ignore these notices. But a colleague, who thought that a notice allegedly from Israel Post was genuine, was conned, paid and received nothing.

Meanwhile, several post office branches in the city have been closed, and people who had rented post office boxes in these now-shuttered branches have received a letter from Sharon Goali, manager of the mail delivery department at the Israel Post. The letter informs them that their mail will be forwarded to the address they provided. For clarification, they can telephone 076-887-2256. The letter also states that such mail will be delivered until September 23, 2023. What happens afterward is anyone’s guess. For further details, they are advised to go to

Actually, there are several Israel Post websites, with at least one with a tracking service that traces both domestic and international mail. How good or how bad this service may be, one can only find out by trying.

HOW MANY people know the name of the first Jewish male NASA astronaut to fly into space? To save readers from Googling, the answer is Dr. Jeff Hoffman. You can read a diary logged by him, as it is now in the possession of the National Library of Israel (NLI), along with several original and secondary sources which were presented to the library at a ceremony last week.

The event opened with an eight-minute documentary film Space Torah. It relates how Hoffman, in 1996, brought a small Torah on board Space Shuttle Columbia. On the Sabbath, while orbiting Earth, he read from the book of Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” Hoffman is currently on tour in Israel with the Space Torah film, which is being screened at universities, museums and community centers.

Hoffman became a NASA astronaut in 1978. He participated in five space missions, becoming the first astronaut to log 1,000 hours of flights aboard the space shuttle. He has performed four spacewalks, including the first unplanned contingency spacewalk in NASA’s history, and the initial repair/rescue mission for the Hubble Space Telescope.

Hoffman brought numerous Jewish objects with him on his space missions, including a small and light Torah scroll on his fifth and last mission. Hoffman saw the act of bringing religious objects into space as part of bringing his own tradition with him, but bringing the Torah into space had the added symbolic meaning and significance of bringing the holiness of human life into space.

National Library rector Shai Nitzan opened the evening with a personal memory of the 1969 Apollo lunar landing, after which the monthly ritual of blessing the new moon was, for a short time, modified among some communities. That historic event, he said, inspired many young Israelis with the possibilities and potential of space exploration. Hoffman recollected his first visit to Israel in 1962, saying, “Who would have believed then that I would be here today to open the Jeffrey Hoffman archive?”

He said he was extremely grateful to educator and Space Torah producer Rachel Raz “for sharing this story for generations.”

Dr. Raquel Ukeles, head of collections at the National Library, spoke about the role NLI plays in the Jewish collective memory, adding that Hoffman’s contribution was in line with the tradition of the earthbound travelers, adventurers and explorers represented in NLI archives and collections such as Napoleon, Maimonides and Benjamin Tudela. She pointed out that materials from space “have opened a new frontier with the archive you bestow upon us, the Jewish people and the world.”

“People make history, books are about history, but archives are history because they preserve the records of history,” said NLI archivist Rachel Misrati, who noted the recent approach of social history that takes the stories of ordinary people into account. “These works are now recognized as a vital piece of historical documentation, as they recount the personal experiences of historical events as they were happening.”

Accordingly, Hoffman’s diary aligns with a larger project launched by the NLI to collect personal diaries of historical importance for the purpose of sharing them with present and future generations.

MOST JERUSALEM hotels report high occupancy for Passover. Some visitors have even arrived early – for instance Stanley Arnold of Manhattan, who is currently in the city with family and friends. 

Last Saturday night, as the group walked along King George Street, they were surprised when passing the Jewish Agency building to see that it was in total darkness. The legendary building also houses other national institutions, such as the Jewish National Fund, the United Israel Appeal, and the World Zionist Organization.

“Jerusalem is now full of tourists for Passover, Easter and Ramadan, and the whole city is lit up and festive at night to mark the festivals,” he writes. “The national institutions should be part of these festivities.” Perhaps strapped tax-paying citizens could enlighten him as to the economies of electricity.