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Rita (not her real name) came into our office in a rage: “Who do they think they are? I am not ready to give in to them. I do not want to see them on television. I do not want to see them at all! Let them leave me alone.
By Rabbi Sigal Asher
When her anger lessened, the picture became clear: The Israel Broadcasting Authority claimed that she owed them the fee for the television license, which she had not paid. The debt grew and fines and interested were added to it. She came into our office with a letter informing her that, as part of the legal proceedings being taken against her because of her debt, her bank account had been frozen.
So far, all seems clear: the fee was not paid, the debt accumulated, legal proceedings were begun.
However, nowhere is a twist in the plot, because Rita claims that she has never had a television! Once, she says, she collected an old television that someone had thrown away. She took it home and, threw it away the same day. In her naivety, she told this to the Broadcasting Authority, as an anecdote. For them, this was enough – the lady has a television set, they claim, and she is not ready to pay.In the past, t, Rita had turned to the Broadcasting Authority on the subject, and she has evidence of a letter she sent them in 2011, but the Broadcasting Authority did not respond to the substance of the letter. And now there are legal proceedings. Limitations on her bank account are one manifestation of the proceedings against her what will follow? Rita is a poor woman, living on Social Security, and barely managing to cope, together with her children. But she does not like to leave things open, and so she is not ready to incur debts, not at the grocery store and not with the Broadcasting Authority. As soon as the claim of the Broadcasting Authority became clear to her, she explained the situation to them but her explanation fell on deaf ears.
The system operated by the Broadcasting Authority in this case is a well-known system in Israel, it is the “successful” system: If it works, the Broadcasting Authority benefits. If it doesn’t, never mind, at least we tried. And I ask: What about “Justice, justice shalt thou follow”? (Deuteronomy, XVI)
Rita is not the only one, there are many people like her who are requested to pay debts that they allegedly accumulated. The difference between Rita and them is that they do not check their bills, and if they check and find a mistake they do not always bother to confront the authorities
One could also speak about the requirement to pay the fee called “television license”. Did you know that, even if you don’t turn on the television even once, you are required to pay for the license? This is because the tax is not for the television broadcasts (whose quality is disputable, but this is not relevant here) but for the possession of a television.
In the case of Rita, we sent a letter to the manager of the Haifa branch of the Broadcasting Authority, and attached a lawyer’s affidavit saying that she did not have a television and had never had one. Now we are waiting for the reply and hope that the commonsense of the people who are behind the rules will prevail.
I had one more question in order to solve this mystery: Who are “they” that Rita does not want to see on television? I asked Rita, and she answered: “They are the Prime Minister, the government ministers and all of them. What do they think at the Broadcasting Authority, that I need a television in order to see those people?”
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