The first section of this very interesting story of travel and bureaucracy can be found here.
Part Four: Going to the Consulate
I called Egged at 7:30; the call center wasn’t open yet. I called again at 8:30, and was told that there was a bus at 8:45, and a bus at 9:45. My appointment was at 10:30, and the bus ride was supposed to take 50 minutes. Meaning, from 9:45 to 10:35. If you remember that there is a line outside the consulate (so that you can prove that you have an appointment, receive a pass, and go through security), you will understand that arriving at 10:35 meant entering the consulate at about 10:45, 15 minutes after my scheduled appointment. I got up and ran to the bus, calling Yitzchak on the way to bring me the money.
I felt bad about running so quickly, because my cousin had just asked me to watch her two youngest (she has a Shlomo-aged kid, a Tova-aged kid, a two-year old, and four older kids) while she took her Shlomo-aged kid to gan, but we both realized that there really wasn’t an option. So I went.
I made the bus; Yitzchak missed it, and me, by 3 minutes. I figured that there would be an ATM somewhere around the consulate; I figured wrong. I got to the consulate 70 minutes early, because the bus had only taken 40 minutes, and discovered that I couldn’t go in until half an hour before my appointment. I found a bench under some trees and finished nursing.
The oustide of the consulate.
Yitzchak ended up taking the 9:45 bus and arriving at 10:27 to hand me the money. Of course, since Yitzchak couldn’t prove that he had an appointment, I needed to walk out of the consulate. Because I had told the security guard, when I first went in, that my husband was bringing me the money, I was able to skip most of security and the guard told the inner security workers to let me through easily. Therefore, I walked back into the actual consulate at 10:33, and they gave me a number with no problems. It would have been smarter to take the number and then go out to meet Yitzchak, but I didn’t think of that at the time.
Obviously, in order to find out where Yitzchak was, I needed my phone, so I had to go through the cell phone security bogus. But my phone was Yitzchak’s phone, and his was mine, so it made sense to switch them instead of just waiting for him to appear. After Yitzchak had given me the money and I was waiting to go back inside, I saw that the person next to me was holding a passport issued by the Palestinian Authority. Ha, I didn’t know they issued passports. Is that kind of like a little girl pretending to serve tea to her friends? It was actually kind of funny, and I said something to myself (or to Tova) and chuckled.
Finally, money in hand, diaper-and-clothes-changed (I had forgotten the diapers on the bed, and had to borrow a 4+ from another family; I told Tova not to poop in it because it was too big on her and would leak, and she actually listened until we were off the return bus and walking back), I had time to sit for a few minutes.
Part Five: The Catch
Then my number was called. The lady at the window was very efficient, asked for all my documents, and I gave them to her; answered my questions about the social security cards; asked for Shlomo’s passport so that he could get his, and seemed surprised when I handed it to her; and sent me to pay.
She asked if I was still married to Tova’s father. Yes, I am. And in my head, I think that it’s a funny question to ask. Can she have the marriage certificate? I gave it to her. She asked if I was going to pick up the report or if I wanted it sent to me. I wasn’t sure I had enough to have it sent, and kicked myself for not asking Yitzchak for another twenty shekels when I had met him earlier.
I went to the shipping-and-number-giving desk, where I waited beside a guy with a thick accent who wanted to know where to go. I tried to help him, until I heard his accent and saw his manner. What does he need? He wants to go to America. Does he need a visa? Yes, he says. Is he a citizen? He doesn’t know what that means. Where is he from? “Palestine!” Ha ha. I laughed at that one. The number-giving guy called for another guy and told the other guy to “help this gentleman”. No one can tell me what the exchange rate is, and they are annoyed at me for asking and ‘being angry’, when I am not angry, just kind of frustrated at having to explain such a simple question over and over.
I go to the paying-desk, now that there is no line, and say, “Mah ha’shaar (what’s the exchange rate)?” He thinks I said, “Mah hasha’a (what’s the time)?” looks at his watch, and tells me 10:45. It took me a second to figure out what had happened, and then I repeated my question. This time, he understood, and told me “4”. I gave him the receipt from the lady who had handled my documents (and was waiting for my return) and gave him 400 shekels.
When I get back, the lady tells me that I can’t get a social security card for Tova because she doesn’t have a passport. Huh? I didn’t see that written anywhere. As it turns out, it doesn’t have to be an American passport, but if we have never applied for any passport, from any country, for Tova, then she cannot get a social security card. And she hands me back the form, apologetically. Okay, fine. At least Shlomo can get one. She tells me to wait and that the consular officer will call me. He will give back the documents. If I want to apply for a passport, then my husband will have to accompany me. Yep, don’t I know it.
I sit and wait for the consular officer. While I wait, I see someone holding a credit card. Hm, I think, can I pay for shipping with a credit card? The shipping-girl isn’t at the desk, and while I wait for her to return, the consular officer calls our name. We don’t usually use credit, even though our debit cards are really credit cards. But sometimes, it’s a good option to have. Although, we have been known to say that we don’t have an option for credit. I suppose you could say it’s lying, but the truth is that it’s not usually an option, financially and budget-wise.
I ask the consular officer if I can still have the documents shipped to me, provided that shipping-girl will take a credit card (and I saw a machine for it on the desk). He doesn’t know if she will take it, but says that it’s not a problem for me to get them shipped, even at this late stage. Then he asks for Shlomo’s birth certificate. I need proof that we are his parents asking for his social security card. I don’t have the beautiful Report of Birth Abroad, nor do I have his Israeli birth certificate. I thought the passport would be enough, and the consulate site didn’t say otherwise. In fact, I thought the consulate site said a passport was enough. And the lady didn’t say anything . . . So, we can’t get a social security card for Shlomo, either.
Part Six: The “Solution”, or, Making the Most of An Aggravating Trip
However, Tova’s Report of Birth Abroad should be ready in a week and a half to two weeks. I can drop off the social security forms at the same time as I pick up the Report of Birth Abroad, no appointment necessary. I guess that’s what I’ll have to do; I don’t have a cell phone to ask Yitzchak his opinion (because, if you remember, it was taken when I came in), so I decide to make the trip to pick up the report and drop off the forms. The consular officer is nice and makes sure every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ is dotted so that I will have an easy, fast, trip next time. I appreciate it. And I am frustrated that every trip to Jerusalem seems to leave loose ends that need to be tied up by another trip. Another 80 shekels; another wasted day. Arg. We will not be able to get the social security cards by the 15th of June, but we can file for an extension. Better yet, we can talk to a CPA and get him to help us out.
But, maybe we should get Tova an Israeli passport in the meantime, and then apply for both social security cards when we pick up the report of birth. Hmm. Sounds like it could work.
And that’s where we stand now.
I also didn’t get to buy what I wanted for myself when I was in Jerusalem. Yitzchak said he’s going to check some places here and ask if they can order it in; if not, then I guess I will have another chance in two weeks. Maybe we will plan it for a Friday that we are in Jerusalem. But we are not pulling another stunt like this one; it was too difficult.
Part Seven: The Israeli Passport
We debated whether or not to get Tova an Israeli passport. On the one hand, we aren’t planning on going anywhere. On the other hand, we need it for a social security number, which could potentially save us, or give us, a lot of money, and the passport is good for five years. Plus, it would be kind of funny to see two “baby” passports and compare the pictures. We decided to get the passport. From what I saw on the internet, it would cost between 125 and 140 shekels, which is not too bad. Much, much, less than $105 (which right now is 420 shekels). Plus, we probably wouldn’t have to wait in line. Not too bad . . . so we went for it.
Tuesday morning, Yitzchak went to sell the chametz with the city’s rav, at the city’s commercial center. At the same time, he took Tova to get passport photos taken, and parted with 25 shekel. He went into the Ministry of Interior and asked for a passport application, only to be told that they don’t give them out, and we had to come in.
From what I had read on the internet, I knew that both of us needed to sign the application. My plan had been for Yitzchak to pick up the application and sign it, and then I would fill it out, sign it, and take Tova in to the Ministry of Interior to apply. Now, this plan got changed. So, at 4:15, we all got on a bus and went to the commercial center, where they asked if we wanted a regular passport or a biometric passport (regular, thanks), and told us that since we’re married, only one of us has to sign the form. The passport cost us 140 shekels. Sigh.
On the bright side, they also said that the passport would be put in the mail either that day or the next morning, and we should have it within ten business days. Sounds good to me.
And so, we now wait for Tova’s Israeli passport to arrive; hopefully before Pesach vacation ends and I have to go back to work.
Update: About an hour and a half before this post was published (I had scheduled it to post, ahead of time), we had a knock on the door: The passport had arrived, through registered mail, a day and a half after we applied for it.