Monthly Archives: February 2013

Another brush with the bureaucracy

Waiting room

Now that we’ve been here for six months, the health care system considers us quasi-insiders, and it was time for us to upgrade our Bituach Leumi status to non-paying members (thanks again, Israeli taxpayers!). This required a truly staggering array of forms and documents. We even had to get a copy of our marriage license, which turned out to be more expensive than difficult. (In an only-in-Israel touch, they would also have accepted a copy of our kesubah. I briefly considered asking our renter to take a digital pic of ours, which is hanging on the wall of our dining room in Chicago, but decided I didn’t want our health insurance riding on his unproven photographic skills.)

Among the documents we needed was confirmation from the Misrad Hapanim (Ministry of the Interior) of our comings & goings from Israel in the past 6 months – to show we’d really been here the whole time, earning our new status. Of course, this had to be done in person, by both of us. One government bureau may not consult the other directly, for some reason. We packed up Mordechai on a rainy morning, and headed over to the closest office, a short walk from the Old City.

No dramatic stories here, but it was amusing. There was the mix of Jews – charedim, chilonim, black, white, brown, Anglo, Russian, sabras, etc. – that is utterly typical here, but still can be dizzying for us chutzniks. One of the larger windows turned out actually to be a sliding-glass door opening to a tiny balcony on this 3rd-floor waiting room. So a guy wandered over, fiddled with it until it opened, and hopped out on the balcony for a smoke. This would never happen in America, because (1) the building would be totally, hermetically sealed; (2) even if it were physically possible, opening a window/door in a government office 3 stories up would trigger alarms; (3) smoking anywhere near the building, including on an outside balcony, would draw immediate sniper fire; (4) anything not expressly permitted by omnipresent signs in a government office is not only forbidden, but is potentially a felony; and (5) it would never occur to anyone sane that you could do such a thing. I pointed the guy out to Debbie and she just shrugged. The wife’s gone native!

You don't want to see the non-express line.

You don’t want to see the non-express line.

When it was our turn, the very pregnant clerk was super-nice. Before we got down to business, there was first the fuss that needed to be made over Mordechai. (Chamudi! Ben camma hu?” – “Sweetie! How old is he?” – with the appropriate baby faces.) She printed off our forms, we wished her b’sha’ah tovah, and we were on our way. Still, I couldn’t resist taking the snarky shot at the right, which was from a different department.