Woe is the Israel postal system

How about not feeling you won the lottery when a letter you sent actually reaches its destination?

Israel Post privatization is under way (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel Post privatization is under way
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Someone in Herzliya mailed me a check in a regular sized envelope on June 9. On July 21 it arrived in my postbox in Ma’aleh Adumim.
Ma’aleh Adumim, according to Waze, is 88 kilometers from Herzliya. The letter took only 42 days to arrive. That means the letter traveled just over two kilometers a day. If that letter had little cat feet, it could have walked to my home faster.
One could conclude, in the spirit of the Book of Lamentations read last Wednesday night on Tisha Be’av, “Woe is the Israel postal system.”
Yes, woe indeed.
My heart leaped, therefore, when a government press release flashed across my computer two days after that letter arrived with the headline, “Israel Post privatization is under way.”
According to the release, the government will sell up to 40% of its holdings in the Israel Postal Company in two phases, with the hope of bringing in a “strategic investor who will develop the company and postal services for the benefit of the public.”
What a novel idea: “for the benefit of the public.”
David Amsalem, Cyber and National Digital Matters minister, also had the public in mind and was quoted in the release saying that bringing a private investor “will enable Israel Post to continue to develop and soar, and offer a better and more efficient service to the general public.”
I rubbed my eyes in disbelief when I read “continue to develop and soar.” Are you kidding me? It would have been more honest had he said that this move would “hopefully prevent the postal service from further regressing and plummeting.”
Amsalem talks about “more efficient service.” How about just normal service? How about not feeling that you won the lottery when a letter you sent actually reaches its destination? How about going to the mailbox and actually finding mail there on a consistent basis?
On May 3, The Wife went to the post office to mail an 8x10 envelope, including some lovely pictures of the family, to her mother in Skokie, Illinois, for her 86th birthday. Happy birthday, Eunice. The envelope, with pictures of smiling great-grandchildren, has still not reached its destination. Hopefully it will arrive by her 87th.
The Wife, more optimistic than me, went to the post office two weeks ago to inquire. The clerk asked her if she sent the envelope registered mail, which would have cost more money. My wife, naively believing that adequate postage on a letter is enough to ensure that it will be delivered, replied in the negative.
The clerk looked at her as if she had just dropped from the moon, and said that if she really wanted the letter to arrive, she should have sent it registered mail. This was a foot soldier in the postal army essentially expressing no confidence in the ability of the mail service to deliver a properly stamped and addressed letter.
BUT IT’S not only Israel.
I’ve been in this country too long to fall into that trap of believing that if something here doesn’t work well, it most certainly works abroad. Not for my ardent Zionistic impulses is the urge to say that such a thing would never happen in America, a real country that works. Because, as it is now clear to all, not everything in America works, including the mail.
Are you annoyed, justifiably, at standing in long lines in an Israeli post office to send a package? Try your luck buying stamps at a post office in Manhattan. Trust me, the postal service in America is no better.
On May 2, a letter was sent to my Ma’aleh Adumim address from Fort Lee, New Jersey. The letter bore my Israeli zip code. On June 16, the letter was returned to the sender with a sticker reading “Not deliverable as addressed.”
Of course not, because there is no Derech Mitzpe Nevo out there in Tacoma, Washington, where the letter – because of a similarity of zip codes – was sent. My zip code nearly matches one in Tacoma. The mail sorter apparently didn’t see the word Israel in capital letters underneath the zip code.
I can imagine some poor, overworked postal worker schlepping around Tacoma in the rain – walking up South Tacoma Way, and then down South Oakes Street, then back up South Sprague Avenue, and down South Orchard Street – before realizing there simply is no Derech Mitzpe Nevo anywhere in the city. He then returned the envelope to sender, Elvis Presley-like, “address unknown, no such number, no such zone.”
The sender resent it, and I received it on July 12, only 72 days later. When I held it in my hands I dutifully recited the traditional sheheheyanu thanksgiving prayer, praising the King of the Universe for sustaining me and enabling me to reach this occasion.
But it shouldn’t be. I shouldn’t have the same emotional feeling of luck and gratitude receiving a letter in the mail that I did standing with my children under the huppah at their weddings.
Yet here we are.
“YOU SHOULD complain,” advised my father, who in late October sent to me from the US a $35 quilted (puffer) jacket for winter stuffed in a manila envelope that arrived just in time for spring. “Find out what’s going on with your mail.”
“Sure dad,” I said, humoring him. Like that would help, like it did The Wife any good. I did, however, ask a mail deliverer I ran into on the street if there was some problem with the mail.
“Corona,” he grunted, pulling out the excuse now used for just about everything. “Corona.”
If anything is late, not working, or goes wrong, just blame it on the virus.
Can’t get a doctor’s appointment? Corona. Checks not deposited as expected in your bank account? Corona. Peaches mealy? Corona. Mail not being delivered? Corona.
Some of those excuses are legitimate. But not all of them. A letter – containing a check – sent from Herzliya to my home should not take 42 days to arrive, even in the age of corona, especially when my bills always manage to arrive on time – with or without the plague.