The ‘bureaucrats’ who deserve our thanks

They operate behind the scenes and without thanks from most people who are oblivious to their central role in this evolving system.

HOME FRONT Command soldiers work at the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem in April, after it was turned into a quarantine facility. (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
HOME FRONT Command soldiers work at the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem in April, after it was turned into a quarantine facility.
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
When Israel closed its borders to foreigners at the beginning of March, many people recognized the economic implications and the clear effects the decision would have on the tourism industry, alongside its necessity in combating the spread of COVID-19. In addition to the economic costs have come significant mental health hardships for Israeli citizens, many of whom are left without the ability to see their loved ones who live abroad and do not hold Israeli citizenship.
Recognizing this to an extent, authorities have made a series of exceptions to the full “ban on foreigners,” including the ability for immediate family members to enter Israel for weddings, funerals, and bar and bat mitzvahs. Following requests of hundreds of immigrants who are new mothers and fathers, we were further able to amend these restrictions to include the grandparents of newborns. The parents of lone soldiers and national service volunteers are also able to enter.
The entry permit system has put an exceptional burden on Israeli consulates and embassies abroad that must evaluate, process and provide entry permits for those hoping to travel to Israel. Behind the scenes of this intricate and complicated process is a small team of women in Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
This dedicated crew, day in and day out, night in and night out, handles the requests and ensures that Israelis, many of whom are immigrants, are able to receive the visits they so desperately need from their loved ones.
They operate behind the scenes and without thanks from most people who are oblivious to their central role in this evolving system. If it were not for them, simply put, Israelis who are ill would go without the help of their family; travelers would remain stranded; new mothers who are alone in the country would remain without the supporting hands of their parents; and lone soldiers who are unable to travel home themselves due to IDF restrictions on foreign travel would not be able to see their parents.
Beyond this extraordinary team at the Foreign Ministry, there are numerous other individuals and organizations putting in extra hours to support Israelis in general, and immigrants in particular during these challenging times. They address countless bureaucratic hurdles, translate complicated government policies into transparent and accessible information, and provide mental health support to those in need.
There are also the many soldiers and reservists of Pikud HaOref – the IDF’s unit responsible for Israel’s citizens – always there to answer the phone and provide important information to those seeking it.
In my visit with new immigrants leaving a Tel Aviv “quarantine hotel” – their first stop after immigration – with all the imaginable hardships of these circumstances, stories of extreme kindness and compassion brought tears to my eyes. Having become a part of the immigration process, these soldiers showcase the value of mutual guarantees fundamental to Israel’s existence, working hand-in-hand with the Jewish Agency and others involved in these everyday, superhuman efforts.
All of these seemingly regular, incredible individuals are joined by the countless doctors, nurses, cleaning staff and all those working in the hospital and medical system at this time. Fighting on the frontlines of a global pandemic that is fraught with uncertainty, they too deserve our utmost respect and appreciation for their unconditional dedication in taking care of the health of all Israelis, without difference.
The COVID-19 pandemic brings with its significant challenges that cause understandable frustrations and grievances. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to recognize and acknowledge the many individuals committed to doing all that is in their power to help. It is important, however, to know they exist.
As a member of Knesset relying on their assistance for the hundreds of requests I receive, I am indebted to their devotion and willingness to help. As this challenging holiday season comes to an end, it is imperative we take a moment to identify and seize the opportunity, and thank them. Toda!
MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh is a member of Knesset for the Blue and White Party.