Thursday, January 8, 2009

...And I Didn't Even Have Time To Crochet!

As dangerous as war is, like the present Election Campaign War aka Operation "Cast Lead," life goes on here in Israel.

My two passports, the American and the Israeli are due to expire soon. Yes, that means that I have to renew them, so on Monday, I had my picture taken at my usual photo-printing place on King George Street, Jerusalem. No surprise that the requirements for each are totally different. Israel is much easier, a pale blue background, and I could sit there smiling happily, knowing that making aliyah as a young bride decades ago was a wise move.

For my American pictures, the photographer reversed the background to white and told me to take off my large earrings (shades of the demands I remember from my high school yearbook picture) and make sure that my ears show. He also suggested that I wipe off my smile, so that the picture would look more like a mug shot. I followed orders, since he said it was based on other customers' experiences.

I checked out how to get a new passport on the Israeli Ministry of Interior site. There is an option, for less money, to do it online, but I'm a "people person" and always feel more comfortable f2f. So yesterday, armed with the pictures, my dying passport and the hat I'm crocheting-so my expected wait would be pleasant and productive, I traveled to Jerusalem. I left when convenient, not believing in getting there "early." I figured that the middle of opening time would probably be best, and I was right. The security line to enter took less time than it takes to get into the bus station, and that was with "hand" checking, not x-rays.

I walked up the very long two flights of stairs, the equivalent of three or four by today's standards. Decades ago, a schlepped baby carriages up and down those stairs, and davka now there's an elevator.

I asked for a passport form from the "information clerk," who also gave me my number. I sat down in the fairly empty room, saw that there were less than ten ahead of me and quickly tried to fill out the form. I had barely finished when a clerk called out asking if there was "anyone for passports." I raised my hand and she told me where to stand.

While I was waiting, behind just one person, I overheard another clerk trying to explain to an uncomprehending English-speaker that he needed an additional document, so, of course, I butted in. They were both grateful, since it was getting frustrating for them.

When he finished, I asked the woman if "she did passports," and she said yes, and very quickly it was all done and paid for. Now I just have to wait for it to arrive in the mail.

From entering to leaving the building took less than half an hour. Now, I have to make my appointment, via the internet, for my US passport. I can't imagine that being as pleasant.


Anonymous said...

funny stuff, Batya! Good thing the only time I have to renew my Israeli passport is when I'm in Israel...Bad thing I'm not there...especially now!

Batya said...

I didn't even have time to take pictures, so you can imagine how quick it was.

Hadassa DeYoung said...

My experience is with the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. Making an appointment on-line is not difficult and you are given a choice of available days and times. After you chose you are sent confirmation via email. The process is quick and not at all unpleasant. The staff at the Embassy has always been courteous and helpful when I've gone there. The guards once even let me in when I was a few minutes late. After completing all of the paperwork I realized that I hadn't brought quite enough money so I ran out to an ATM for more cash. Returning a few minutes after closing I thought I would have to return later, but the guard called the guard inside and let me in. It was just before Rosh HaShana, so I suppose they wanted a few more mitzvot that year. (Guards at the Embassy are Israelis, probably dual citizens.)
Hadassa DeYoung, K'far Darom/Elon Moreh

Batya said...

Hadassa, thanks for the idea. Going to Tel Aviv is looking more attractive.

Hadassa DeYoung said...

I went to the consulate in Jerusalem once. The Arab clerks were all rude, except of course to Arabs. In Tel Aviv the Jewish and non-Jewish staff were equally polite. I was very surprised when even the non-Jewish staff read basic Hebrew documents.
One important note: you will not be allowed to take even a small purse or bag - and no cell phones - into the embassy unless it is for a baby or a medical purpose. There is a place to store bags/purses very close to the embassy, for a small fee. You may bring only necessary documents, cash and/or a credit card, held in your hand; you may pay with an internationally accepted credit card.

Batya said...

I guess one has to wear clothes with big pockets for wallet, tissues etc.


The restrictions also apply in Jerusalem.