Monday, 14 July 2014

The Uncaring Landlord and the Expert Craftsman

Never judge a book by its cover! It's a big lesson to learn - and one that one often encounters. Every now and again it becomes so clearly revealed that one is forced into resetting one's entire way of thinking.

Renting in Israel is not all that exciting. Landlords have a practical monopoly on how the rules work. The tenant has very little say in how a contract will ever turn out in the end. Demand for housing is way in excess of supply - and due to this, landlords are able to control the market any time they want and how they want. It is not a happy situation for the tenant, and much needs to be done to control the domination of landlords.

Almost four years ago, our security window in the safe room - חדר הממ"ד - broke. It's a special window that seals the room shut and makes sure the room is secure. That room is no doubt the most important in the home when it comes to war in Israel. As for that window - it's "kind of" important when it comes to living in the times we are currently living in. There's no opportunity for second chances if it's not working right.

When the window broke, we asked the landlord to fix it. He didn't (because it costs money to do.) Incidentally, he's not the type of guy that does well with his tenants refusing to pay rent either or doing their own fixing and simply deducting it off the rent - so it would have been hard for us to fix it at our own expense (for the benefit of the landlord in the long run - after all!) 

Actually he's been telling us how much he has wanted to fix it for so long, one would think he actually cared. When the rockets began in Beer Sheva a few years ago, he told us he was no longer able to fix it because the window technicians were now attending to windows there and it would just have to wait. Naturally, when the barrage of rockets "ended" - we never heard from our landlord again. We did ask him to fix it numerous times though - each time receiving that "special promise!"

When the new war broke out a week ago, we asked him yet again to take care of things. We explained the urgency of things. Our very lives are at stake!!! He's this "yuppie" kind of guy, own's one apartment - on his way up to owning the next, drives a flashy car. Life's not worth much to him - at least when it comes to the life of the other!

He sent in his "Mr Fix-It-Everything" guy. A well presented Torah looking student - and the type of person one might feel far better suited to learning Torah than fixing things. He took a look - charged the landlord ₪500, and then told us that the window was broken(!) It could not be fixed - he explained. They just cannot fix these windows today. He had an idea though. He would attach a chain so that the window would kind of hold closed - you know, like the type used on doors to keep thieves out (see pic above.) We asked how he felt it could be that a tiny chain like this could hold back the powerful force of a rocket!! He explained there was nothing to worry about. Being a Torah scholar, the words of faith came forth from his lips: If G-d wants the missile to hit you, it will hit you, and if not, you don't really even need the safe-room (let alone the chain!) Wise words - for a Torah scholar of course. He even made a cool ₪500 for his sagacity! As for us we were still left with a broken window. He also made a point of mentioning that if we didn't believe his words of faith - it would be best for us to see a psychologist.

In desperation, we called the main Home-Front and were put in touch with the professionals who actually do fix these windows. A very caring neighbour valued our lives more than the cost of the window - and knowing our very difficult financial situation offered to pay the full sum (a large amount!), because as she said - it's our lives at stake! After almost a week of waiting (they really are busy!) the real Mr Fix-It came through. An elderly man - wearing workers clothes. He carried a set of his own tools (unlike our other friend who needed our chair to stand on and hoped we had our own set of tools for him to use.) The real Mr Fix-It wore no Kippa on his head. In fact, he came out all the way from his Kibbutz in Haifa to fix our window.

He got to work. Within a few seconds, he had the window completely under his control - being familiar with every single nut, bolt and screw. Using his tools skillfully and with great speed (and no additional schmoozing with us - about things like how dirty the window was - a point discussed at length by our previous friend,) he had the main parts of the window replaced and the window back in place - working!!!

I'm not sure what got into him, but he took out his work invoice, scribbled some things on it and told me to sign. Once signed, he explained that the work was done for free because he felt it could be that the window itself was at fault and not that we had done anything to break it. (As far as I know, none of us had done anything to break the window in any case.)

I escorted this gentleman back to his car not being able to thank him enough for his work. I found myself thinking of that book - and it's cover. How one man can wear his Torah suit, learn in Kollel, own at least one home and a very fancy car - and have no care for the life of another - let alone a tenant who pays him his dues every month - without fail - even when he raises his rent exorbitantly! A window - that could possibility be the difference between us living or not - meant nothing to him...

Yet another man - simply dressed. An elderly man - who wore no Kippah and who lives on a Kibbutz in Haifa - could attend to this same situation while thinking of only the important purpose for which he was doing his job - to possibly save our lives. It's a price that cannot be valued in terms of money - yet he did his service - at no charge at all.

Israel - it's a strange place - where one can find books of a variety of covers. It will often surprise you when you meet the most beautiful books, hidden under the most simple of covers.

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