Olah Chadasha At Last
This is my first day of ulpan, although I'm getting ahead of myself.
Retrospectively, the month between the Husband's departure and our arrival at Ben Gurion were was one of life's worst experiences. It wasn't the physical separation so much as the ordeal of doing all the last minute stuff alone in California while he did all the setting up stuff alone in Jerusalem.
It wasn't worth it. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but frankly, if we had to do it over again, we'd do it together. It takes two to pack up a house and two to set up a house, and single parenthood wasn't fun at my end and he, on the other hand, didn't much enjoy being alone.
Arriving at Ben Gurion was pretty straightforward: I got off the plane in the company of another olim family and we were greeted by an AACI rep who walked us through the entire teudat oleh procedure--so I ended up walking out of the airport with my 'immigration passport', and specific directions on how to bank my sal klita, how to get the bank account number to Misrad HaKlita, how to sign up for Bituach Leumi (the National Health Insurance) and pick a medical plan.
Husband and Daughter were at the airport and schlepped us and the baggage home. We spent the next week unpacking, sorting, purchasing a few things for the apartment, and exploring the Talpiot Industrial Zone (which should really be renamed the Talpiot Shopping Zone because it abounds with stores, dealerships, and a couple of small malls at which you can find almost anything).
We also explored downtown Jerusalem. Not on purpose. It's simply that my teudat oleh number didn't come up in the Health Insurance Computer so we spent a lot of time trekking downtown to Bituach Leumi's office to straighten this out. It is now, after a lot of trips, copious coffees at Sambooki's, straightened out--it seems that I needed to fill out a form.
Of course, the form was in Hebrew. The Husband speaks Hebrew; the Daughter is in ulpan learning Hebrew. Neither are really expert at bureaucratese Hebrew....so I visited my wonderful neighbors. He is our super and she is fluent in five languages, including English. She sat down with me and explained the words over the boxes. Some I knew. Shem Mishpacha, or family name, is easy. Some were more esoteric, but I learned.
This was a useful experience because the following week I was on my own with Misrad Hapnim, the Ministry which issues one's permanent identification card (teudat zahut) and registers the new immigrant and starts the citizenship proceedings.I went inside and the place was an absolute zoo. The young woman behind the counter handed me a pink form and told me to fill it out. I looked at it. It was in Hebrew.
"Can I fill it out in English?" I asked hopefully.
No, it has to be filled out in Hebrew. Okay, I took a number (85) and sat down. There was a row of desks behind partitions numbered 1 through 7 with the ubiquitous-in-Israel lit numbers above, telling everyone what number was up. The number being called was 45 so I figured I had time. I looked at the form and suddenly realized that it was remarkably similar to the Bituach Leumi form my neighbor helped me fill out the night before. I pulled the white Bituach Leumi form out, and sure enough, the same boxes asking the same bureacratic information (Name, Family Name, Father's Name, Teudat Number, Address, Telephone Number) that is required everywhere in the world was on this pink form.
So I copied the information from the white form onto the pink form's corresponding boxes.
I finished and looked around. The number that was up was 54, so I still had time. The purpose of long lines in Israel is really to give you time to finish Tehillim, so that's what I did. Then we got into the 80s...I watched the numbers flash: 80, then 81, then 82, then 83 -- then 87?! Hey, where did my number go?
I walked up the empty seat in cubicle #5 and said in English, "This number wasn't called," holding up my "85." Yes, it was, you just didn't hear it, she told me in Hebrew. "No, it wasn't--I'm next." She told me to go to another window, and called out something to the next window, who also told me to go to another window. I did, and she also tried to send me to another window. At that point I stood my ground and said "No. Everyone sends me to another window. My number wasn't called and I need a turn." So she invited me to sit and looked at my papers.
"Ahh, no, I don't do this. You need to go to Chani at window #8," she said, pointing to an enclosed area at the far side of the room.
Okay, I went over to Chani where she and her assistant were beleagured by a large crowd of olim who didn't understand plain Hebrew and English when her assistant told them it was at least a 45 minute wait.
"But I've already waited two hours!" one tall, emaciated and unattractive redhead snarled. (She couldn't have waited two hours--the office hadn't been open that long.) Chani was busy processing the immigration paperwork of the couple seated at her desk, and clearly there were others of us sitting and waiting our turns. The Ugly Redhead and her scruffy companion sat down with ill grace, muttering.
I asked Chani's assistant if I had time to get coffee? "Of course," she said, gesturing at the crowd.
So I tripped downstairs, up the street, across Yafo to Sambooki's, and got three cafe hafuchs and three small cinnamon rolls, and brought them back -- one for me, and two for Chani and her assistant. They looked like they could use some sugar and caffeine with the morning they were having -- and I DID work for the government in my old life and I know how awful "Monday mornings" (here, Sunday mornings) are, especially with the unhappy public breathing down your neck.
My turn with Chani rolled around, and it was a breeze. I walked out of there with my teudat zahut and told everyone "Yeshli teudat zahut hayom--ani Yisraeli!" which caused the security guards to give me a bemused grin and a 'mazel tov.'
Next I took the white form to Bituach Leumi where a pleasant woman took it, then told me I was enrolled and the Boy and I could go to the medical plan of our choice by Friday and sign up. Simple! Finally!
I DID get a laugh out of the staff at Bituach Leumi the day I got the white form to fill out. The clerk painstakingly explained which boxes had to be filled out, and pointed to one large box stating, "And here you write what you have been doing since you arrived in Israel."
"Trying to get health insurance," I retorted, which elicited a laugh from her and her colleagues.
So this has encouraged me to jump right into ulpan -- I dislike not being literate, I've discovered. Hence my first class today.
I found the ulpan all by myself as well. I only got lost once, but since the Israeli world operates on cellphones and everyone has one, I simply called the ulpan office and they walked me to the building over the phone. My class has one Norweigian fiance of an Israeli, one Polish girl, one Japanese girl, one Venezuelan oleh, three Asians whose exact countries I didn't catch, two Americans besides me, a young Arab guy from East Jerusalem, and a French girl.
Obviously, playing tourist all summer has to take a backseat to school but school is only 4 mornings a week from 9am to noon, so I'm sure we can squeeze in trips to the museums, the tunnel tours, walks through the Old City, explorations of various neighborhoods.
The summer is shaping up nicely.....