Because of the constantly creeping overreach of government into all areas of our lives, a new industry was created here in Israel – and certainly not only in Israel but in every other country and political system in the world. Here in Israel, people who are engaged full time in this industry are called “machers.” Loosely translated from the original Yiddish, the word connotes people who are doers and able to accomplish specific goals and tasks.
In the Western world they are usually called lobbyists or, in a more derogatory fashion. influence peddlers. They are the people who know how to swim in the confusing tides of bureaucracy and who deal with governmental laws that always have unintended consequences. Usually the machers owe their success, in accomplishing the goals of their clients, to people whom they know who are working for the government in the overall bureaucratic system.
As a lawyer in Chicago’s municipal court system eons ago, I learned that many times it was more important to be in the good graces of the lonely appointments clerk than attempting to become a favorite of the judge himself. Because of the maze of laws and regulations that govern every facet of our existence, here in Israel it is very hard to really get any major issue settled or that necessary permit or letter without resorting in one way or another to the services of a macher. Someone has to be able to help the poor ignorant frazzled citizen steer through the maze that he or she will encounter when having to deal with the government.
Machers are not “fixers.” They do not do anything that is illegal or corrupt. They are merely expediters who know the ins and outs of a complicated society and its government. They have the patience and the expertise to deal with this cumbersome system until it produces positive results for the macher and his or her client.
Depending on the circumstances, the macher may or may not charge for the services rendered. Always lurking in the background is the understanding that somehow a quid pro quo situation will arise. But it is usually never expressed in explicit terms and the dangerous shoals of bribery and corruption are expertly avoided.
It is my experience and impression that machers enjoy their work. The thrill of the chase is oftentimes more rewarding than the actual accomplishment itself. The same is true for those who use this profession to raise funds for organizations and institutions. Only those who somehow viscerally enjoy the chase and the adventure of the challenge are the ones who are truly successful in this most difficult line of work.
The secret always lies in the ability of the macher to successfully manipulate others to do his or her will – to grant the appointment, to waive the fee, to expedite the granting of the proper permit - all of which is legal but encrusted in the quagmire of governmental inefficiency and bureaucracy.
It is my own learned observation, arrived at after nineteen years of living here permanently, that almost everyone in Israel is at the very least a macher of one type or another. Everyone knows someone who somehow can ease the path towards accomplishing the goal of dealing with the government. Even though we have a population of over eight million souls, we are still a small country made up of families and neighborhoods. As such, everyone really does know someone who can be of aid and assistance in times of need and challenge.
Sometimes the macher is too overeager or overzealous in assistance. Do-gooders can oftentimes do more harm than good with their well-meaning intent and actions. Nevertheless, most of us find comfort and aid in the efforts of others to help us when we are in difficult and trying circumstances. Human nature, like physical nature itself, abhors a vacuum. No one wishes to be left alone to have to face the problems that life inevitably imposes upon us regularly. So there will always be room for machers of all types and stripes.
In every election campaign here in Israel the politicians and candidates for office rail against the macherim and the way they play the system. However, since it is they who are responsible for the system and the necessary accompanying presence of the macher, their protests ring somewhat hollow. I imagine that the macher has been a permanent fixture in society from time immemorial. So I imagine that he or she will remain so in the future as well.