Last night I dreamt that the doctor said yes. It was the most surreal dream I ever had. And I've had several dreams that were way out there. I have dreamt that I'm running faster than a tsunami wave. I have dreamt that I fell off a jet plane straight to my lecture at a mathematics convention. I have dreamt that I'm watching an amazing nuclear explosion, one kilometer away, and I'm calculating the time until the shock wave arrives.

But all these are far closer to reality than the exciting scene I conjured up in my sleep last night. I saw myself leaving the offices of my local clinic, climbing the dark stairway and making my way through the corridors. Then I entered the office of the health administration doctor, sat down and showed him the referral form signed by the specialist. Then the unimaginable happened: The doctor read the form from beginning to end, approved it and signed it.

That has never happened to me in waking life. I have approached the health administration doctor endless times but my requests have always been rejected. At first I thought it was something personal against me, and was somewhat offended. But after talking to several of my friends who were also repeatedly rejected, I felt better. I realized I shouldn't take it personally. The administrative doctor deals with the health maintenance organization's financial commitments to its patients, so we're probably all better off with him being rather stingy. If a patient receives a finger, he'll eventually demand the whole hand.

But then I realized that it's probably uneconomical to employ someone who will automatically refuse every request. It would be simpler to pass a law declaring that health maintenance organizations should not waste their time and money on expensive medical services. But then I understood that the good thing about the health administration doctor is that he says 'no' in a soft and pleasant voice, and that he always has explanations. I realized he offers patients his personal touch, which is often much more important than the often painful medical treatments that they are denied.

Usually when I enter his office he is on the phone, and continues the conversation the entire time. Sometimes, I'm not sure whether he's addressing me or the mysterious person on the other side of the line. It probably doesn't even really matter.

The last time I saw him, I had two urgent referrals that, once, used to be automatically approved. One for an essential examination, and the other to see a specialist at Hadassah University Hospital. The essential examination was rejected out of hand. Nowadays, he said, it is approved only for patients over 60. "That's alright," I thought to myself. I can wait.

The urgent referral to the Hadassah specialist he read and reread, which seemed to me an achievement in itself. True, he then rejected it, but that really isn't his fault. After all, he is only fulfilling orders. He explained that I can only see specialists from my HMO, and not any of Hadassah's. I pointed out that our health maintenance organization had no specialists in this field. The doctor accepted my point without arguing, but gestured that our time was up.

I was rather pleased that our time was up, and I could return to deal with other matters. The impatient wait, until the age of 60, might take a considerable amount of my time. And I do know that I should consider myself lucky. One doctor told me that two of his patients died because the health organization refused to approve a certain check-up. Look at me: I'm still alive, and I'm slowly improving my insurance: from regular health insurance, to an array of supplemental insurances. From silver to gold and platinum. I'm even considering going for the jackpot, the best of them all, which includes nursing home insurance. Of course, I'll still be hoping that the health administration doctor will approve it.