B is for Bureaucracy - A is for Accomplishment


The other day I had what I feel to be one of the quintessential olah chadasha experiences--visiting multiple government offices in the span of 2 hours. I had to go to the municipality to pay renters tax (a thing here) and then to misrad hapanim (Ministry of Interior) to change my address. Anyone who has been to one of these places knows it is often difficult. You don't know what you need, you hardly speak Hebrew, and the red tape runs miles (or shall i at kilometers?) long.

This is probably one of my earliest "Israeli" memories after I made Aliyah. The 2nd or 3rd day at Beit Canada my fellow Olim friends and I decided to tackle misrad hapanim to acquire our teudat zeuts (ID cards). Usually you get them at the airport as soon as you arrive but of course things didn't go so smoothly. The computer was down when my friends arrived and my name was simply spelled wrong on mine (I suppose I could have chosen to be Amy Alberston if I wanted...). Being the proactive and eager Olim that we were, we left at 7am to be there when the office opened (advice from more seasoned Israelis). And once again, things did not go so smoothly; it was Wednesday and the one day the office doesn't open until 1:30pm...ayzeh basa (what a disaster).

This memory serves me well. I have now visited various government offices for various reasons and always come prepared and with appropriate expectations (extremely low ones).

My (somewhat) veteran tips:

  1. Get there before it opens. There will be a line down the block half and hour before any office opens. It feels annoying to wait in the line but it pays off. You'll get numbers immediately and get through quickly. The people are also generally friendlier if they haven't dealt with hundreds of idiots yet that day.

  2. Bring every single piece of paperwork (yes, in Israel we have literal paperwork made of paper) with you. You never know when they will ask you for a certain document, form, ID number of someone, etc. it's always better to be safe than sorry. I'd even bring copies of your teudat zeut and teudat oleh with you because you need them for almost anything and many offices won't do it for you.

  3. Try to speak Hebrew. It can go 1 of 2 ways, but generally they will appreciate you trying. The other possibility is they will be annoyed by your bad English and tell you snidely "you can speak English, ok" (with a huge eye roll obviously). But don't be discouraged. You'll at least feel good you really tried and can't be blamed for their sour attitude.

  4. Ask people for help. Most people in this country love Olim and are eager to help you. They also are frustrated with the government office experience in this country and feel extra bad for you because you are fresh to its terrors. Let them help you! It makes everyone feel good.

  5. Treat yourself after. It's such an accomplishment to get through these offices alone (or even with a friend) that you deserve that ice cafe or boureka (or pair of shoes) after! Even if you didn't succeed in getting something done and have to come back, you got out alive! And that's really something!

So, whether you need to pay a weird tax you can't pronounce, or just need to get a passport, don't be (too) afraid of Israeli Government offices. You CAN do it! (And because you live in Israel you can complain about it all you want!)


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