Tag Archives: HOT

The Israeli Way in Death and Mourning

My cousin’s concern about my propensity for doing the right thing – the reason for him lending me The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning way back in January 2000 – was, I would like to believe, not as well-founded as it was well-meaning. Insofar as it related to my timely returning of other people’s property, however, there was certainly some justification for his doubt: the book – lent for fear that my somewhat cavalier approach to Orthodox practice might cost my just-deceased father his place in the World to Come – was still in my possession in August 2013.

The Jewish Way in Death and MourningBut, since dusting down the volume last month on the passing of my dear mother (may her memory be for a blessing), it has struck me that the otherwise fine and comprehensive work suffers from several important omissions, not least of which is a complete failure to address how one should deal with loss in modern Israel, because, while losing a loved one is always difficult, losing one here comes with all kinds of unexpected hardships. So, if Rabbi Lamm will forgive my chutzpah . . .

melchy on mourning, rule I: Do not, under any circumstances, allow your nearest and dearest to take his or her last breath late on a Friday morning – it just causes such an unnecessary, Erev Shabbos palaver . . .

Following futile efforts to extract anything more from the ward sister – imagine a Russian, utterly unendearing version of Hattie Jacques, who had clearly honed her family liaison skills in one of Brezhnev’s (far) eastern correctional facilities – than “she died,” I was summarily dispatched to the hospital on-duty rabbi to discuss burial.

“You should bury her now,” advised the kindly-looking chossid, in his late sixties, following a nervous glance at his watch. It was almost midday. “The cemetery is about to close.”

“But no one will be there,” I replied, with more than a hint of panic, “not her friends, not family . . . no one!” That was certainly not the send-off I had imagined for my very special mum (nor the one, I think, that she would have wished for herself).

“Well, it is up to you.”

“So . . . do I have to bury her now, or don’t I?”

“You should.”

“But do I have to?” I repeated, more forcefully this time, still wary – in spite of my rather less than positive experience, from Holders Hill Road, of Jews with beards – of going against religious wisdom in such a matter.

“It is up to you.”

With the conversation fast turning into a Marx Brothers routine and the rabbi clearly itching to lock up his Portakabin for Shabbos (and even relieved, perhaps, that I was leaning towards a Sunday burial), I took a filial decision: that if the rabbi hadn’t, Hasmo-style, yanked my negligible sideburns and forced me into burying my mother that very afternoon, there was clearly some discretion in the matter . . . so, Sunday noon it was!

melchy on mourning, rule II: Keep a large stick by the shiva house door . . .

When, immediately upon reaching the end of the line of well-wishers, I was approached, graveside, by the two schlemiels proffering the monumental masonry equivalent of the Argos Catalogue, I made short work of them and thought no more of it.

But when another matzeiva (headstone) salesman knocked on the shiva house door the following morning, I was simply too disbelieving to come out with anything that I would subsequently be proud of. And it was still a one-off, I reassured myself – sharp practice by a monumental mason with enough chutzpah to get ahead of the pack.

With the second and third visits that week, however, I was reminded of just where I was living: a country where, so sadly, almost anything goes.

“It’s just business,” an English-raised cousin attempted to placate me.

Living here clearly changes us, too.

melchy on mourning, rule III:  Come up with a reason better than death as to why you wish to cancel service contracts . . .

The shiva passed without incident. And I don’t think I managed to offend anyone this time around, unlike at my father’s, in 2000, when, to an unmistakably smartarse “Do you know who we are?”, I replied “Yes, you are the shiva cousins!”

Since then, however, I have had to deal with the God-awful companies that supplied my mother with TV, telephony and Internet for the last six and a half years.

I began with the Internet service provider, 012 Smile (though Frown has always seemed a more fitting epithet). And, after days of trying, I finally got through to a human being (or so I thought) . . .

“I want to cancel my mother’s Internet subscription,” I informed the customer service representative. “She passed away, unfortunately, on the second of August.”

“But why do you want to cancel?” enquired Jacqueline.

“Do I really need to explain?”

“It’s a pity,” said Jacqueline, clearly on a roll, “I can give you three months free!”

“Did you hear what I just told you? My mother died.”

“Please stay on the line,” the hapless, tactless Jacqueline replied, the shekel finally having dropped, returning some twenty seconds later with a clearly heartfelt “We, of course, share in your sorrow . . .”

Next was the ever-delightful HOT (see HOT . . . in the bedroom and under the collar, Nimas Lee: An open letter to HOT, and Some Don’t Like It HOT) . . .

Its Irena actually seemed to grasp – first time, too – why my mother would no longer be requiring telephone, Internet, or even television services, though I did receive three follow-up calls that same day, all beginning “I understand that you want to leave us . . . do you mind me asking why?”

HOT are so very thoughtful: even if there was a minuscule chance of a customer having a last-minute change of heart (or going back to them in the future), they obliterate it with a timely reminder as to exactly why you decided to get shot of the bastards in the first place!

melchy on mourning, rule IV:  Avoid kaddish wars . . .

There does not seem to be a shul in this entire country – or an Orthodox one, at least (It’s always the frum ones,” the Legendary Ivan Marks would often lament– where one can recite kaddish without being drowned out by some arrogant tosser (Ashkenazi) or nutter (Sephardi) who appears persuaded that his departed relative was so much more special than everybody else’s that his duty in mourning is to cantillate over them all.

I have as yet resisted (though only just) the temptation to compete with said tossers/nutters and, the stronger one still, to just bash them over the bonce with my new hardback Koren (see below). But, oh, how I long for the civilisation of the United Synagogue!

melchy on mourning, rule V:  Don’t be a cynic . . .

I attended shul three times a day during shloshim (the first thirty days of mourning). But how many times, and in how many ways, can one say “God is great” in a single day and still maintain a semblance of interest?! I would just sit there incredulous most of the time, staring at the intelligent-looking people around me, wondering just how they could all seemingly be so into this.

My continued fiddling under the table, however, with my new Galaxy S4 – before jumping up, like a Yok-in-the-box, to recite kaddish (I hope it still counted) – was starting to get noticed, so I purchased the Koren Siddur in an attempt to keep my brain at least partially active during proceedings. Before, that is, that I became sceptical about even that . . .

Translation by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks,” I scoffed to myself, “who are they trying to kid?!” And I attempted to envisage Johnny Oxbridge sitting there through the long NW8 nights with his Thesaurus and a small, though perfectly presented, plate of cucumber sarnies (Grodzinski’s white, lightly buttered, sliced into quarters . . . am I right, Elaine?!)

I am a once-a-dayer these days. I say kaddish once. And I even strive for a little kavonoh. That feels right for me. After all, isn’t that what it is all about?!

.וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן . . .


Some Don’t Like It HOT

After years of hair-tearing frustration with the crap cable, and even crapper customer, ‘service’ provided by HOT – see HOT . . . in the bedroom and under the collar and Nimas Lee: An open letter to HOT – I am finally, following numerous broken promises (to myself), doing something to disengage from the bastards: I am connecting my newly renovated apartment with HOT’s satellite competitor, yes.

I had, originally, again ordered HOT – a technician was due at the apartment last Tuesday – because, as well as being reactionary (I still use a paper diary), it offers a convenient television/internet/telephony “triple”, I am used to navigating its TV channels, and can rarely pass up on a deal (it is currently running a Samsung Tablet promotion).

But after receiving, in the days following the order, half a dozen calls from HOT customer service incompetents enquiring why I hadn’t yet ordered, and then a chance, elated call from a friend, Hanna, who had just switched to yes, I decided to follow her lead . . .

I called HOT on two separate occasions to cancel the order, but neither “Linoy” nor “Mohammed” could locate it against my name, address, telephone or ID numbers. And, entirely true to form, on Tuesday afternoon – the day on which the technician would have been due – I received an sms informing me that one would be visiting the following (i.e., Wednesday) afternoon! I called once more to cancel . . . but “Oshrit”, too, could not find any record of the order in HOT’s ‘system’.

There is clearly, however, some communication at HOT – at least when they are about to lose another 300-plus-shekel-a-month customer – because, early on Wednesday morning, Natanel, the sales rep who had closed the original order, called to enquire why I didn’t wish to proceed with it.

“If you are asking,” I said, “I will tell you.” And I proceeded to recite my HOT list . . .

  • HOT’s automated system still, after six years, doesn’t recognise my telephone number (and I don’t even mention Robert Lee);
  • HOT’s customer service reps are still convinced that I live on Melchett, even though I sold my apartment there six months ago;
  • I live at number 4, not at number 10 (in the same way that, on Melchett, I lived at 31, not 3);
  • Natanel had not disclosed, in his original call to me, the 300 shekel connection fee;
  • I became thoroughly pissed off by the multiple, misinformed calls after the order had already been closed;
  • none of HOT’s customer service reps could find evidence of the order; and
  • even the day agreed for it was wrongly recorded.

Natanel’s response? To tell me that my complaints were nekudatiyot me’od (highly specific), that I shouldn’t be so quick to anger, and, wait for it . . . to ask: “Aren’t you grateful to HOT when watching television programmes that you enjoy?”

I replied that I did very much enjoy the English football, but that I could also watch that on yes. And, ignoring his second point (which may actually have some validity), I once again went through my HOT list.

“It is one hundred percent impossible,” said Natanel, “that a rep could not find the new order.”

“Well, it is one hundred percent something,” I replied, “because three out of three couldn’t!”

And, while I could not disagree with Natanel’s contention that no customer service is perfect, I informed him that HOT’s was by far and away the worst that I have ever had the misfortune to experience, even in Israel, with not a single call passing without some degree – usually a high one – of irritation, aggravation and/or annoyance.

With a sigh of resignation, the admirably persistent (and intelligent, for a HOT employee) salesman enquired, “Is there anything I can say that will make you change your mind?”

“No,” I replied – knowing that HOT would never agree to the free month/s that sprang to mind – with no little satisfaction . . . and, with which, Natanel abruptly terminated the call.

And while not kidding myself that there won’t also be “issues” with yes, deserting HOT has accorded me, after the many frustrating years of having to deal with it, both much-needed therapy and sweetish revenge.

Nimas Lee: An open letter to HOT

To: HOT customer service, fax number 07770 78231

December 1, 2010

To Whom It May Concern, HOT:

I have been extremely frustrated, for some years now, by the supreme incompetence of HOT’s customer service . . .

Whenever I call HOT, its automated telephone system fails (unfailingly) to recognise my mobile number: 054 554 11** [asterisks for melchett mike]. So, too, do HOT’s customer service representatives (when they eventually pick up, that is – rarely before 10-15 minutes of recorded bollocks, and if the call does not ‘spontaneously’ disconnect beforehand).

The aforementioned is my number. It has always been my number. It was never the number of Robert Lee [nimas li, for non-Hebrew speaking readers, means “I am fed up/have had enough,” hence the wordplay in the title], a visitor from the US who rented my apartment in 2001/2: one of HOT’s many mini-brained customer service representatives must have added it to Mr. Lee’s account when I left it as a contact number after informing HOT that he no longer lived here.

I live at (and own) apartment 3 at (building number) ** Melchett, Tel Aviv. I don’t live (nor have I ever) at 3 Melchett. Even if I succeed in persuading a customer service representative that I am not Robert Lee, I then have to spend a further 10-15 minutes getting them to believe that I live at ** (and not 3) Melchett. This whole process, as you can perhaps understand, can be extremely tedious and irksome.

Following numerous calls to HOT last year in an attempt to resolve this situation, I was asked – in order to prove that I live at ** (and not 3) Melchett – to fax my ID card, together with its address supplement, to HOT’s Finance Department. This I did, even confirming receipt over the phone. And, yet, still to this day showing as my address in HOT’s customer service records is . . . yes, you guessed it . . . 3 Melchett.

For some insane reason – essentially, because 012 Smile’s telephone service does not work very well (in fact, it is shit) – I called HOT last week to order its telephone line (without time commitment) instead. Once again, your customer service representative, Simona, was unable to locate my details. Moreover, she went on to insist that I must be Robert Lee, because . . . wait for it . . . I have the same telephone number as him and live in his apartment! On the verge of tearing my hair out, I attempted to reason with Simona that it was highly unlikely that two individuals would have the same telephone number and that the problem, therefore, must be with HOT’s customer service database. But to no avail.

Neither did the facts that I have had HOT Internet and TV services in my name for one and two years, respectively, satisfy Simona: I provided her with both my ID number and the last four digits of the credit card with which I have been paying HOT, but . . . nada. Most infuriating of all – listen to the call (HOT claims it records them) – Simona seemed to expect me to resolve the problem. She eventually agreed to call back when she had located my details . . . but, surprise, surprise, zilcherino! Further telephone conversations – with Mor and Talia, from the “Chanit” and “Maya” teams, respectively – failed to yield results, or even the return courtesy calls promised.

HOT’s customer service – a misnomer if ever there was one – is, even by the abysmal standards of Israeli customer service, an absolute shambles and disgrace. Indeed, never have I come across such incompetence and ineptitude in an organisation (not to mention a commercial one). Even former clients from my days in criminal defence law were more reliable than anything I have encountered at HOT.

You will be unsurprised to learn that I did not renew my contract for HOT’s TV service when it expired a fortnight ago. And neither will I for its Internet service when it runs out in June 2011. In fact, as I slowly disentangle myself from all things HOT, I am starting to feel a remarkable weight lifting from my stressed, tired shoulders.

Happy Chanukah.

Yours respectfully,

Mike Isaacson

PS I have also posted this letter to my blog, melchett mike, at https://melchettmike.wordpress.com/

[See also HOT . . . in the bedroom and under the collar]

HOT . . . in the bedroom and under the collar

Over a drink in Tel Aviv yesterday evening, a friend divulged details to me of the HOT Action that he and his girlfriend have been enjoying in the bedroom.

Alas, he was not referring to “action” of the rumpy-pumpy, bit of the other, “ooh err missus” sort . . . but that of the Channel 14 variety (14 is the action movie channel on Israel’s HOT cable TV network).

A mere matter of weeks into a new relationship – and with a particularly attractive woman – said friend, who doesn’t have a television in his own apartment, has started to appreciate the benefits of his girlfriend’s.

So, every evening, they rip off each other’s clothes, jump into bed . . .  and watch telly.

This, it has to be said, does not bode particularly well for their relationship. HOT’s standard fare of tasteless wannabe/quasi-celebrity “Isratrash” and shit films (repeated ad infinitum) has transformed the international news networks – BBC, CNN, Fox, and Sky – into the staple television diet of most English-speaking households in Israel.

I pay a monthly 210 shekels (about 35 British pounds) to, in effect, have Sky News “rolling” on in the background – it has taken on an elevator music-like quality in my apartment – but, essentially, for the luxury (for a further 50 shekels) of being able to watch the English Premier League from Dexxy’s and Stuey’s (previously my) Rechov Melchett couch.

"I hate HOT!"HOT’s abysmal programming (with the notable exception of Channel 8 documentaries) is matched only by its miserably inefficient, unreliable and thoroughly discourteous customer service . . . easily the worst I have experienced in a country in which it faces formidable competition in that regard (see my earlier post, The Buyer’s a Freier).

There is even a Hebrew website, Ani soneh et HOT! – translated as “I hate HOT!” (logo above) – dedicated to the seemingly widespread contempt for the network. (If any readers of melchett mike wish to suggest a more worthy contender for the title of Worst Customer Service in Israel, please do so below.)

I spent yesterday morning – like so many others during my decade in Israel – pulling my hair out in the futile wait for a HOT technician. “Seven-thirty to nine,” I had been confidently assured by HOT’s telephone customer service representative.

The technician didn’t turn up. Neither did he call. And, to add insult to injury, after I demanded compensation for the wasted two hours off work, HOT’s customer service manager offered me a temporary extra channel (to add to the over one hundred others that I never watch).

“The Food Channel? What . . . for a WHOLE MONTH?! Wow! Yeh! That’ll be fine then.”

When the technician finally did turn up, yesterday evening, Dexxy treated herself to a taste of his calf. That showed him! Bastard.

So, I will be voting with my feet and switching to HOT’s satellite competitor, YES. Either that, or I will splash out a one-off 400 shekels for a receiver that will allow me to view Israel’s handful of terrestrial channels.

And, should I desire some HOT Action, I could always pop round to my friend’s girlfriend . . . sounds like he could definitely do with some ‘assistance’ in that regard.