I sometimes have nightmares of the first few months of moving to Israel and having to struggle through the bureaucratic wasteland that lay ahead of me. I remember that despite being a ‘stick your head in the sand’ kind of person when it comes to having to deal with these things I was forced to wait in long queues to register my status as New Immigrant (Olah Chadashah), register myself for rent assistance, register my driving licence to be converted, register myself for a conversion driving test, pay for a new driving license and then pay pay pay… They will never let me stop paying!
Due to this nightmare I, as with many new immigrants who can, actively avoid having to visit the various ministries in their large intimidating buildings full of people pushing, crazy queues (I think it has already been said that Israeli’s do not queue), which ultimately end in another fruitless day sat around waiting for someone to help you, only to be told that you followed the sign to the toilet cubicles when you were looking for the cubicle to renew your car license (an honest mistake).
However, sometimes the unavoidable occurs and I find myself staring beyond the obstacle in front of me and staring at a long deserved holiday abroad, I know that I have to take the leap. Only to take the leap one must get a passport.
Up to a year of living in Israel you are eligible for a temporary passport (Teudat Ma’avar), without which you would not be allowed to leave the country, not even with your country of origin’s passport. When I originally went to the Interior Ministry (Misrad Hapnim) to apply for my first Teudat Ma’avar I remember walking into the new offices placed within a new forty storey building and feeling totally lost among all the different signs to the different departments. I remember walking to information only to be told that as the place was new they did not have any information. I remember that when I finally found the place I needed to be I sat in what I thought was a queue for twenty minutes only to realise that I was supposed to take a number. Finally after I took a number and sat for a further twenty minutes, I ran to the rather abrupt woman sat in my assigned cubicle who, after a further fifteen minutes of filing out forms in Hebrew, informed me that my Teudat Ma’avar would be delivered to my local post office where I could pick it up in a couple of weeks. The collection from the post office is another story…
So when Miss Sheva called me late last night and reminded me that it was coming up to the time that I had to make the choice of either getting an Israeli passport, renewing my Teudat Ma’avar, or not ever leaving the country, I felt a shiver rush down my spine… Not another trek through Israel’s bureaucratic wilderness! It took the Children of Israel 40 years wandering in the desert to find Israel. It seems no different for the Oleh Chadash finding their way in Israel.
Nevertheless I decided to pull off the process like a plaster (band-aid) and take my leap over the hurdle and so this morning at 7.30am Miss Sheva and I walked from the Dizengoff centre, down Kaplan towards the looming building where the Misrad Hapnim is housed. We arrived hot and bothered, the make-up we had plastered on ourselves to have pictures for our new passports taken running down our faces, our hair looking more than windswept and not looking forward to having to sit around and wait… although we were prepared for it.
8.12am – Arrive at the steps of the Misrad Hapnim – bags searched.
8.13am – Ascend the escalators to the correct department for visas.
8.15am – Have bags checked again and go through security check in order to enter the offices.
8.16am – Try to enter the offices to be stopped by security guard who informs us that we need to go to Information.
8.17am – Stand in queue for Information
8.18 am – Ask the lady in Information where we need to go to, only to be told that she could renew the passports then and there.
And then and there she did. In record breaking time, Miss Sheva and I received our renewed passports (which we did not have to pay for), I received a new cover for my Identity Card (Teudat Zehut) and changed my address and we were back downstairs queuing for coffee in seven and a half minutes!
Seven and a half minutes! Has Israel finally got herself in order? Finally has Israel learnt the fine art of efficiency? We soon realised that our shock and awe was short-lived, or should I say long-lived as we realised in our excitement over the seven and a half minute experience that it was taking us twenty minutes to get a coffee… Oh well one step at a time Israel, one step at a time.