The meter high stack of paperwork does not inspire confidence.


I have been sparse around these parts because I have been in Hebrew class daily, have homework, and writing on larger projects, and am dealing with the Israeli government regarding paperwork.

I began the paperwork process of entering and staying in this country back in the USA. It was fairly straight forward, involving letters from my father’s Rabbi, his death cert, records of what I’d been doing with my life, and a few trips to the embassy.  As major efforts go, it worked.

Then, the day my visa was to be issued, the consulate went on strike. Every single Israeli consulate in the world shut its doors and stopped processing everything except getting bodies home for burial, and adoptions. This stranded Israelis in the US, and halted many thousands of travel plans. It was about a month to beginning of school, so this was a giant issue for me. Hell or high water, I was expected to be at Tel Aviv University on July 17.

I am here, and the strike is not over. This means all my paperwork has to be done through the Ministry of the Interior. Yesterday was my fourth time in the building.

The first time, I called ahead to make sure the gal I needed to see was there. I took class off. I arrived. I waited two hours. She’d gone home sick, and no one had told me. The second time, they sent me to the wrong department. The third, I learned that they sent me to the wrong department because the one I needed was closed in the morning, and they hoped the second choice would be able to help me anyway. They couldn’t. Yesterday, I learned that I need to see another department entirely, which is only open on Sunday and Thursday mornings. Goodbye good Hebrew grades. It is very important to get this done in August, because the Holidays are in September, and the whole world grinds to a halt. The visa I’m on expires Oct 17th.

Now, there are some very amusing things to notice about the Ministry of the Interior here. It is a gargantuan building, many dozens of stories tall, round, and echoing as soon as you walk through the door. As a smiling young white woman, in comparatively little clothing,  I have to go through very little security. They glance inside my backpack and run a metal detector over it. Other people they search thoroughly. They profile. (Frankly, during my wait, I thought a security agent was going to come up and question me because I didn’t look miserable. I had an audiobook in my ears. What can I say?)

When I arrived yesterday there were 200 people ahead of me.

I wandered to the visa section, passing offices, and there are mail carts full to the brim with stacks of loosely closed files, many a passport clearly visible.

Welcome to Israel.

On the other hand, it is the rough edges of this country that I love. I have yet to see a construction site gated off. It seems that they figure if you’re dumb or drunk enough to fall into a pit, you deserve it. People shove. It’s true. Getting to the front of the line involves some variation of a Tango dance. If you wait, you’ll never be served.

It’s impossible to eat unhealthy here, it seems. Produce is the cheapest food, and little corner markets with good grapes, pomegranates, oranges, and lemonade dot the corners of Tel Aviv proper.

And of course there is the sea, and more blue sky than I could ever hope for. I will have to make a tourist of myself and wear a hat if I want decent skin when I’m 50, but small price compared to Oregon’s brutal cloudy wet winters. Image