Before we left for Israel, we searched the internet for information on getting a bank account.  My big question was whether we’d need a cashier’s check as we sometimes have in the US.   What we found, “It’s not possible to get a bank account in Israel without an Israeli ID card,” so we were resigned to using our credit card as much as possible and paying high fees for our US ATM cards.  We also tried setting up accounts–or simply getting information–from NYC branches of Bank Leumi and Israel Discount Bank, but those US affiliates are run completely separately from their Israeli operations, and were not able to help us at all.

“Hogwash,” said my friend Mikael (a Canadian postdoc) “I went to the Bank on the Technion campus and they gave me one.”  (Actually, I’ve never heard him say “Hogwash.”) He said that some bank employees will claim it can’t be done because they don’t want to bother making the effort to work in English, but that they can be persuaded if you absolutely insist.

This week I went to get the account and there was absolutely no issue. All I needed was 2 pieces of ID and they never so much as glanced at my visa.  They trusted the home address I gave them and took my word that I’m visiting faculty at Technion.  I didn’t even have to make an initial deposit.  It took the bank-lady (that’s what they’re called here, I think) about an hour (!) to fill out the paperwork (surprisingly many things are done on paper here–if you asked me to forge a Technion ID, I’d come up with something more convincing than the one that’s now in my wallet).  Over that hour, I would guess I signed my name 60 or 70 times.  Of course, I read every single document and had the friendly bank-lady translate every single word of Hebrew into English.

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