There is a Talmudic principle that all Israel is responsible for one another and indeed I learned at a very early age that this is a Jewish value central to most of our beliefs and practices. Jews will go to extraordinary lengths to help their fellow Jews in any part of the world. We are very good and being responsible for others. However, it seems to me that Jews and many others have a much more difficult time being responsible for our own actions or for unsatisfactory situations in our own lives which we have the power to change.
Living in a Jewish State, this becomes especially frustrating. In Hebrew, there is not even a word for “accountable.” It is surprising that in a country founded by the motto, “If you will it, it is no dream” that as a nation and as individuals we rarely take responsibility for our actions.
I recently had a problem with my Israeli credit cards. Standing at the supermarket with a cart full of groceries I was told my credit card was refused. The cashier said she did not know why and could not find out. Her attitude was typical of customer service in Israel:
“I’d love to help you, but there is nothing I can do. I am not responsible and I am powerless to change the situation.”
I refused to accept this and asked her to call the credit card company. She referred me to the customer service desk who called Visa.
The customer service representative from Visa had a similar response. “I am not responsible.” She explained that they received a report from a third-party that I owed a bank money. When they receive such reports they automatically freeze the card. They could not tell me which bank or what was owed. They did not have that information. There was nothing they could do except give me the phone number of B.D.I. the third-party which had issued the warning.
Still standing in the supermarket I called B.D.I. They could not tell me anything. I had to go on the Internet, print out a form, mail it to them together with return postage and they would mail me a report of what I owed to whom. I explained that I had no debts. They said they were sorry. There was nothing they could do.
I paid for my groceries by check and later called Visa back. I explained that I had no debt. I asked how could it be that with no warning they cancelled my card. The representative apologized but said that there was nothing they could do. Once they receive a report from B.D.I. they act upon it. They assured me that the credit department had validated it. I asked to talk to the credit department so someone could at least tell me what they think I owed, but that was not possible.
The customer service representative suggested that if my bank sent a letter saying I owed no money, it might help. I called my bank. They had no problem writing a letter to Visa that I was a customer in good standing for many years and that I had no debts. I faxed this to Visa and the customer service represented asked me to include the last three months of bank statements which I did. He took this to their credit department and they agreed to issue me a new credit card with a limited credit line. Apparently there was something they could do even if they were not accepting responsibility. They suggested that I talk to B.D.I.
When the report came from B.D.I. it claimed that our mortgage had lapsed. There was an overdue payment from three months ago. They can not be responsible for the information. I should talk to my mortgage bank. It turns out there was some confusion and only half the money for the monthly payment had been withdrawn automatically. Neither our bank nor our mortgage bank had notified us there was a problem. They had notified B.D.I. but they were not responsible for that because an automatic report is sent every month reporting on all payments on all accounts.
It seems a bit ridiculous to me that a credit card company would cancel my credit cards when my credit limit is more than ten times the amount owed and my bank balance is as well. But they did not know the details or the amounts. They were just following orders.
B.D.I. claims that they passed on information and it was at Visa’s discretion what they did with that information.
Our mortgage bank says that reports are filed with B.D.I. automatically every month. They claim they notified us, but we did not get that letter.
Ultimately it is my responsibility to make sure that my mortgage is paid. However it would be nice if there was someone who was accountable for the decision to cancel my credit card over such a small debt with no notice.
The mortgage is now paid. I am waiting to receive a new credit card in the mail. But how can I know if the same thing will not happen again when no one will take responsibility or be held accountable?
This is but a small example in a nation which encounters daily incidents justified because of a defensive security posture reacting to the hostile world around us.
As Israelis and Jews we have a hard time taking responsibility for our actions. We look to place the responsibility for the situation we are in on others nopt ourselves.
There is a lot of disappointment in Israel following Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel’s National Holocaust Museum, Yad V’Shem. As a German and as the representative of the Catholic Church, a historic opportunity was missed. Not only did the Pope not apologize for the Church’s role in th Holocaust nor mention any nuance of regret or responsibility for it, but following his decision to revoke the excommunication of a bishop who denies the Holocaust, no mention was made of anyone who might have been responsible. It was as if the Holocaust just happened.
As Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who is a Holocaust survivor, the chairman of the Yad Vashem Council and former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel said, “There was no mention of the Germans or the Nazis who participated in the butchery, nor a word of regret,” Lau said. “If not an apology, then an expression of remorse.”
As much as Israelis strive to lose their Diaspora mentality, we still play the part of the Jewish victim well.
I would prefer if we emphasized our role as “Light Unto the Nations” and demonstrated by example that we bear responsibility and are accountable for our actions and state of affairs.