Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Aliyah memories: Walter Mitty edition

Helloooo, Our Shiputzim fans.

Back in this post, I listed some tips for dealing with Israeli bureaucracy. The first one was:

“Always bring all your documents with you – the more obscure and seemingly irrelevant the better.”

Actually, YZG (aka “Mr. S.”) was the one who suggested that we always follow this rule, and about half a year after our aliyah, he was more than vindicated.

On a trip to a certain office, YZG – as usual – lugged our big, fat file folder stuffed with various and sundry papers and documents. To YZG’s great joy, the clerk there demanded a number of rather odd papers, and so Walter Mitty-like, YZG got to pretend that he was Clint Eastwood.

Now, I wasn’t there, but based on YZG’s description, I assume that the scene played out as follows*:


{YZG arrives in a certain governmental office, and after a brief wait, his turn arrives. He sits down in the chair in front of the Clerk’s desk.}

Clerk: {Doesn’t even look up} You’re going to need to come back.

YZG: {Startled} Huh? Why?

C: Because I need some papers which I’m sure you don’t have.

YZG: {Secretly very pleased but tries to act and sound grim and determined} Go ahead. Make. My. Day.

C: {Misses the reference and so doesn’t yet realize that YZG is not your typical bespectacled new oleh} Well, I need a list of your exits and entries to and from Israel.

YZG: {Yawns ostentatiously as he hands over the paper} Please. Don’t insult me.

C: {Raises an eyebrow, as a flicker of interest flashes across her face} Okay, then I need a certificate from the army that says that-

YZG: {Gives her the paper before she completes her sentence and somehow manages to avoid looking smug or self-satisfied} You mean this?

{The Clerk finally understands that she’s facing a worthy adversary, as the camera zooms in on the look of steely resolve in YZG’s eyes. That twangy, western music from that Clint Eastwood movie – what’s it called? – plays in the background. The climactic showdown is about to begin.}

C: {Measures her words carefully, because everything is riding on this} Please give me your parents’ US passport from thirty years ago…

{The Clerk thinks that she smells victory. After all, there’s absolutely no way that YZG could possibly have such a random document…. Or could he???}

YZG: {With quiet dignity} Here it is. {He hands her the passport.}

{Stunned, the Clerk quickly finishes processing YZG’s papers, and speechless, she watches as he heads off into the sunset, with the slightest hint of a well-deserved swagger in his step.}

{Cue: Final credits.}


* Okay, fine. I admit that I may have taken some artistic liberties with the dialogue; and there probably wasn’t any mood–setting music (or any music at all, for that matter); and there’s a slight chance that the clerk was completely oblivious to all the drama. But I think you get the general idea. And in my defense, the clerk really did request those exact three documents – yes, including the 30 year old passport! – and YZG had them all!)



  1. The whole scene-even the music ;)-is believable. However, your credibility is a lttle weak when you say "after a brief wait". I find that hard-to-believe. Usually, you have read so far into the book that you have with you that you are at the most suspenseful moment when they call you for your turn. YOu even think to yourself: "Why can't they let me wait a bit more?"

  2. However, your credibility is a lttle weak when you say "after a brief wait". I find that hard-to-believe.
    Actually, in this case, the wait really was negligible.

    The incident took place at the Meches office in Yerushalayim. YZG had been dreading the visit, because we had heard some horror stories. But in the end, he was very pleasantly surprised.

  3. The last tip that I don't think I saw anywhere, and that isn't specifically related to government offices, but actually applies to schools, medical offices, insurance companies, BE PERSISTENT. You know that really annoying person who calls at exactly 9 AM every Sunday morning like clockwork to make sure things get done? BE HER.

  4. BTW...we made Aliyah with the financial help of NBN in 2003, which I don't minimize. But, since we didn't come on either of their flights that year, we did the government office visits ourselves, like in the olden days.

  5. Yaffa - Good tip.
    RE: NBN - Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that the olim who come on their flights only avoid the initial visit to Misrad HaPnim.


Feel free to leave a comment.