And Yadda Yadda Yadda ... I Made Aliyah

Olah’s lament: Health care in Hebrew

Universal Health Care is not all Peaches and Herb, as I once thought.

(And yes, by Peaches and Herb, I mean peaches and cream.  But ever since I accidentally once said “peaches and herb” (with a soft h) when I really meant peaches and cream, I am compelled to use the much sillier Peaches & Herb. It’ll catch on, you’ll see.)

Back to Universal Health Care.

Why am I title capping Universal Health Care: it’s not a proper noun.

And yet people speak of it as if they know it intimately. As if it’s a person or a place that requires commitment to or vehemence against. As if it requires capping, or an I.D. bracelet.

Since, in general, I tend to be non-committal or centrist when it comes to most heated political issues, in the past, I typically spoke of universal health care in lower case.

Until I moved to Israel.

Because now, being in the system (as opposed to just daydreaming about it), I have stronger opinions.

Now, all of a sudden Universal Health Care is title capped. It’s personal.

When I first moved to Israel, I loved that I could go to the doctor whenever I wanted (or so I thought). I could get bloodwork done, a strep test, and an anti-fungal cream all in the same place, and pay practically nothing. No co-pays for visits. Pills cheap like candy. And all because I had a little card with my name in Hebrew and my new Israeli ID number.

Universal Health Care, you the Man! I thought.

Why is everyone up in arms about this concept? Who wouldn’t want doctors at the ready? Prescriptions for 5 bucks a pop?

Now, two years later and nine months into a mystery health condition I can’t seem to get anyone to pay attention to, I’m a little less enamored with the concept that once seemed simple.

Of course,  lack of personal attention is not a problem unique to Universal Health Care, you might say. We also have this problem in the United States, where health care is privatized.

True. We do.

But, in the States I managed to find a few doctors within my insurance program who gave me a certain level of specialized attention. It was attainable, if not a little challenging.

But here, I feel very much as if I can’t find anyone in the system to care. Like, no matter how hard I tried, I wouldn’t be able to find a doctor who would see me through this condition until we figured out what it is and what to do about it.

Don’t worry about me. I’m not dying.

But if I was, I wouldn’t know it. Because no one will give me an answer! They just keep passing me on to someone else who is “more specialized” than they are.

My next visit (4 doctors and two ultrasounds since the first visit) is supposed to be to a “general surgeon.”

Can anyone tell me what that guy does?

How does he know more than the “general practitioner?”

Or the “woman’s doctor?”

Or the “woman’s doctor surgeon?”

The Hebrew word for surgeon SEEMS to be used interchangeably with specialist. Which is just as confusing if not more than the fact that the Hebrew word for infection (daleket) is the same as the Hebrew word for inflammation

Infection and inflammation are TWO VERY DIFFERENT diagnoses!

Just as different as surgeon and specialist…at least where I come from.

The surgeons here are apparently the only doctors in Israel that learn a specialty. Which, if taken literally, is really upsetting to me as someone who likes to avoid invasive procedures.

Worse, the surgeons are super-specialized to the point that if your problem falls just outside the boundaries of the region they are specialized in, they give you the “Ain Ma La’asot” shrug of the shoulder and send you off to the next guy. Who, of course, doesn’t have an open appointment until 6 weeks from Wednesday.

6 weeks from Wednesday at 8:10 pm.

(By the way, no one — not the hottest super model; not the youngest, most peaches and herby looking man or woman — looks good doing the “Ain Ma La’asot shrug.” If we don’t give this cultural expression/body language up simply because it’s defeatist and obnoxious; we should give it up because we look ugly doing it.)

See what I mean?

Now, what was I saying?

Universal Health Care.

The funny thing about Universal Health Care in Israel is that everyone here is happy they have it, but if they want someone to take them seriously, they see a private doctor.

By which I mean specialist.

By which I mean surgeon.

By which I mean general surgeon … 6 weeks from Wednesday.

It’s possible this is all one big misunderstanding.

That there is some secret I don’t know because I’m new here. Or there’s some magical expression I need to say in Hebrew when I call *2700, the hotline for my kupah.

It could very well be one big misunderstanding.

Especially, since there’s no “manual of services” available in English when you join the Universal Health Care system in Israel. Not even if you pay extra to be in “Mooshlam,” the upgraded platinum level of service. Which, as Americans pre-conditioned to be terrified of socialized medicine, we all buy into.

Yes, it could just be yet again one big misunderstanding.

My recommendation to Nefesh B’Nefesh in 2013, in light of the damning article and follow up posts about them in Ha’aretz this week?

Work with the kupat holim on an American-friendly semi-private health care system. A happy hybrid between Private and Universal. Something to please the centrists — those of us who prefer our health care systems to be lower capped, as long as they work in our favor.

Jen Maidenberg is  a writer, editor, activist and former assistant editor at the Arizona Jewish Post. She posted the above on her blog on Oct. 25, 2012. Visit her website at