To the good people at the Israeli IRS:
I came into your office one winter afternoon pushing a stroller. My 2-year-old son was in it. He had been diagnosed with autism a couple of months earlier. I had to turn in his medical papers so I could get a tax deduction.
I waited in line. The clerks were sitting in booths, serving the citizens by turn.
When my number was called, I approached the booth, pushed the stroller in and tried to sit down in what little space was left. I explained my request and the clerk looked at my papers.
"What is this?" she pointed at the word ASD.
"Autism," I said quietly. The people waiting in line were about seven feet away from us.
"Wait." She got up and called another clerk, perhaps her supervisor, to come. He stood next to her behind the desk, watching the room. "What is this?" he pointed at the paper.
"Autism," I repeated.
"Ah, autism," he bellowed. The other clerk hunched over the computer and started typing something. He mumbled something to her.
At this point I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Since my son was with me, I was more inclined to laugh. It was really quite comical, as if someone has written a very politically-incorrect skit for Saturday Night Live.
"Where's the father?" he asked loudly.
"There is no father," I said. The level of incredulity was reaching the hot zone.
"What do you mean, no father, who's his father?"
"There is no father."
He looked skeptical. I thought: Do I have to spell it out for him?
I spelled it out for him. He repeated it very loudly. We were moving from satire to grotesque comedy.
He instructed the woman how to fill out the form and then left the booth. She printed out the document I needed for my tax return filing and handed it to me.
And this, dear IRS people, is how I got my deduction, worth just under $100 U.S. per month.
P.S. Talking about the heartlessness of government agencies has become a huge issue in my country in the last few days following the horrible tragedy of Moshe Silman, a man who set himself on fire during a protest last week. Mr. Silman was one of the many unfortunate people to fall between the cracks of the system after he had lost his business, money and good health. He couldn't get help from social security or the department of welfare and housing and felt he had lost his dignity.
Many parents and caregivers have shared stories about how the system made things rough for them, causing more pain when they were on a very painful road to begin with. I truly believe that society must help anyone who really cannot help themselves; investing in little children, when they have a certain disadvantage, for example, is in the best interest of the community.
Having said that, I feel have been fortunate most of the time in my dealings with authorities. I have found the system usually correct and efficient, if sometimes crass, as my word-by-word account of IRS story shows. There were social workers who made me feel welcome and tried to help me. People were willing to listen, and as long as I made myself clear, knew my rights and kept everything civil and polite, I was treated fairly. This is my personal, lucky experience. How was yours?