Living in Israel can be a frustrating experience. For most people who live here, that probably doesn’t require elaboration.
But just when you’re nearing the end of your tether and having thoughts of yerida, you notice that things are changing here — for the better.
For some reason, I get usually encouraged by the small positive changes when I notice them- the type of things that most people brush off as minor developments or curiosities.
I remember during my first year of aliyah watching in amazement as the Rav Kav customer service center transformed-almost miraculously, almost overnight-from a cesspool of bureaucracy to a network of gleaming customer service centers that wouldn’t look amiss in London or Paris. In my mind at least, it almost happened that fast. I think I almost cried.
Although I’ve made no secret of my grievances with several aspects of life in Israel (especially the cost of living) I believe that Israel is advancing forward as a country at a steady pace, despite its young age.
In part, it’s this very frenetic pace of developments that can make Israel seem like such a perpetual balagan. The journey can be chaotic and stressful; but seeing some of the outcomes makes it seem much more bearable.
These innovations might seem small, but they mean we’re on a forward trajectory. Things are getting better, albeit slowly. Where gaps exist between the standard of living in Israel and the West, they are closing.
Like many, I’ve spent the majority of the last year in relative social isolation. But these are the things I’ve noticed between forays into the outside world.
1. Our Bank Cards Now Have PIN Codes
One of the strange facets of life in Israel that has always freaked me out has been that-until very recently-bank cards here didn’t come with PIN codes.
Although in practice card management companies have great self-service features now-such that if you lose your card you can quickly freeze it-that meant that anybody that stole your card could begin racking up purchases just by picking a card off the street and forging a signature.
2. Contactless Payments Are Here
I remember marveling on one of my first trips back to Ireland at this fantastic new contactless payment technology that seemed to be everywhere.
You just held your credit card up to an EMV reader and -boom!-you could pay for services (this innovation is particularly dangerous in the setting of a bar). I must have looked like something out of a history novel as I admired it.
Not only had contactless payments arrived to Ireland, as I found out on my flight home, but they existed throughout Europe too (I began to feel like a very backward foreigner from the Middle East).
Their arrival in Israel- a home of technology, but mostly focused on the export market-has been a little more delayed. But I can confirm that this advance happened some time over the past year while I, and much of society, were largely ensconced in our apartments.
Banks have begun issuing cards with EMV chips and EMV point of sale (PoS) terminals are now ubiquitous. If your card doesn’t have a chip, it’s worth asking for a replacement that does. The initial usage limit was 200 NIS (roughly $60 at today’s rate) which is to be raised to 300 NIS by year end.
3. Contactless ATMs Are Also Here
Last news on the financial front.
Many ATMs are sporting the contactless payment technology too. My recollection is a little spotty but I can recall seeing one last week in Jerusalem.
4. (Almost) Everybody Wears Face Masks
As a fairly early pandemic precaution “adopter” I can remember attracting stares back in February when I first donned a face mask.
Face mask wearing isn’t 100% perfect. Compliance varies by city. But compared to how things were less than a year ago, the difference is night and day.
5. The Home Delivery Market Has Exploded
Drive through any main street in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv these days and you can’t miss the 10Bis and Wolt delivery drivers shepherding takeaway to hungry patrons.
10Bis has been around for years and is particularly popular as a sort of employee perk (and enticement) among Israeli technology companies. Wolt is fast expanding and bringing its delivery service to new areas.
Like Deliveroo-the food delivery service that operates throughout the UK, Ireland, and elsewhere-10Bis and Wolt make sure that their couriers are decked out in bright flashy gear sporting company colors and branding. They’re impossible to miss. And make the cities feel that bit more urban as a result.
Of course, they’re also carrying something. The COVID restrictions have forced many restaurants to go online and virtually every time I log into 10Bis there’s a new delivery option.
It’s the worst of times — to have a social life.
And the best of times — to be stuck at home gorging on fast food and tipping your delivery driver with contactless.
Daniel Rosehill is a professional writer based in Jerusalem specializing in ghostwriting long-form thought leadership content for technology executives and public sector clients.
Originally published at https://blogs.timesofisrael.com