Letters to the Editor
Octogenarians have much to contribute
Immediately after assuming the post, the new director general of the National Insurance Institute issued an across the board directive that all arbitrators over the age of 80 stop working on the institute's committees. This directive, the first step of a reform program at the institute, was and is being implemented.
Presumably, behind the director general's directive was a concern for the quality of the committees (including work accidents, general disability, disability that entails income tax deduction, etc. ) and an attempt to streamline their work.
The elderly doctors on these committees have extensive professional experience, use their judgment without taking into account outside considerations, are highly skilled and are more available. They also tend to be polite to and patient with the people who appear before the committee, which is not a common occurrence in these parts.
The decision to terminate the work of older persons is random. The productivity of the arbitrating doctors was not carefully reviewed, nor did anyone check whether there are suitable replacements should they be forced out. The termination notice for these senior doctors is to take effect this month. In instances when there is no replacement, the wait to appear before an arbitration committee will be even longer.
Clearly, there are elderly doctors whose work suffers as a result of their age; these physicians cannot be allowed to continue to work. But what applies to an individual does not necessarily apply to the collective. The National Insurance Institute is losing manpower, tarnishing its good name and losing its credibility, because these "old people" are generally known and esteemed by the claimants, the attorneys and the labor courts.
The National Insurance Institute is also not saving a single agora by dismissing doctors above age 80. Moreover, halting work due to age and not impaired functioning is incomprehensible. It is well-known that some pensioners work to supplement their limited pension. And if they are not incapacitated, why shouldn't they continue to work, under supervision?
They also are not taking away someone else's place. There is usually a shortage of experienced arbitrators. The young experts prefer to go into private practice and not be part of committees. That way they can write an opinion for the appellants. The hoped-for reforms that the director general wants must start with a change in the way the present generation of decision makers thinks. This generation is also slowly approaching retirement age and making decisions that sometimes have no grounding. Understanding the "older" generation's contribution to society and education does not require a budget; just simple appreciation.
Prof. Edna Kott
Arbitrator, National Insurance Institute Appeals Committee
A society without spirit
In response to "To study for fun or a profession?" August 28
A country is not just an economic venture, but a society with cultural and moral values. The economy is the infrastructure and its intellectual and cultural life is the content that makes it unique and grants it a place in world culture. According to Nehemia Shtrasler, a great writer such as Amos Oz, a leading candidate to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, or a Nobel Prize laureate in biology, is not productive enough. Thus, they should not complain that the state does not support them so that they can earn a respectable income. The writings of Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare and Confucius - pillars of human civilization - would apparently do best to remain on the bookshelf and gather dust.
In Shtrasler's socioeconomic vision, we must teach our children and steer them toward a desirable, contemporary and financially-rewarding profession. They should become successful, wear designer clothes, live in the suburbs in a house with a garden and drive a 4x4 vehicle. That is the ultimate dream. If they become interested, perish the thought, in literature, philosophy or political science, they should not complain that they cannot make ends meet at the end of the month. How very sad.
Can everyone who learns a profession really support himself respectably, as Nehemia Shtrasler believes? It is highly doubtful.
How does this claim mesh with the doctors' strike last year and with the hundreds, if not thousands, of engineers who were dismissed after their companies made an exit? What about the programmers leaving Israel because, despite their impressive salaries, they cannot meet the cost of living here?
Not long ago Shtrasler wrote a piece in which he mourned the fact that investors from Arab countries and the Far East were planning to enter the Israeli market in the wake of the Oslo Accords, but were then deterred by the failure of the peace process. Wouldn't the graduates with degrees in those same subjects Shtrasler belittles (Asian studies, Islamic and Middle Eastern studies ) have been in demand then? Companies, after all, not only need engineers, but also people to handle its international relations. And if they speak a less common language, all the better.