...and A Time To Scream
Let me preface this with a bit of insight: everyone says that when you make aliyah, you need "patience." Patience, smatience -- what you really need is a sense of humor.
My husband and his first wife divorced over 20 years ago. He and I have been married for almost 18 years. I've been married to him longer than she was. However, when he went to Misrad Hapnim this time around to get a new teudat zehut (Israeli ID card), they issued him a TZ with his long-forgotten ex-wife's name on it.
"Oh, this isn't correct," he told Officialdom, "My first wife and I are long divorced and I've remarried." Of course, he had all the requisite paperwork: marriage certificate (with apostille), birth certificate of our son, the Get from the Beis Din in the U.S., my Kettubah, etc.
Was Officialdom impressed? No.
"You have to go the Rabbinute," the clerk explained. "The Rabbinute needs to open a tik (file) and register your Get.
The Rabbinute is the body which handles marriage and divorce in Israel. The Rabbinute decides who is Jewish and who is not per Jewish law, and whether or not the marriages and divorces of Israel's citizens are kosher according to Jewish law.
Going to the Rabbinute is the Israeli equivalent of having to visit the IRS.
We left Misrad Hapnim and hiked up Ben Yehuda towards the Rabbinute. The Husband stopped at the bank.
"Why are we going to the bank?" I asked, new and naive in the country.
"Because we're going to the Rabbinute," the Husband explained grimly. He almost got it right: he took out 600 shekels; the cost of opening the tik was 612 shekels.
This started a process of multiple trips to the Rabbinute until the Husband got a hearing before a dayan (religious judge)....a very nice man who handed down a decision stating that the Husband was validly, halachically divorced. Great, we're done, right?
Wrong. We go back to Misrad Hapnim with the paperwork from the Rabbinute. This isn't sufficient, we're told. Now we're told to go back to the Rabbinute because allegedly there is a problem with the Rabbinute's paperwork (in fact, there isn't -- the Rabbinute dates the divorce not from the civil divorce date but the date of the Get, so the two dates aren't the same).
Back we go to the Rabbinute -- fortunately, this time with Yossi in tow, or we'd have had to camp there all week. The first man we speak to runs the Husband's teudat zehut through the computer and tells us there is no problem, he is divorced, the date is correct, why are we bothering him? While we're pondering our answer to this, he runs my teudat zehut through the computer and goes berserk.
"You're not in the computer! You're not here!" he tells us with excited anger.
Even Yossi was taken aback. "Why aren't you here, Sarah? You're not in the computer--you're not married in Israel."
"No, I was married in California--what silliness is this?" I asked. "Since when do I have to open a file to prove I'm married in Israel?"
Well, guess what? I do have to open a file to get myself on my husband's teudat zehut because the last time he was in Israel, he was married to someone else.
This is where having an Israeli friend who seems to know at least one person in every branch of the bureaucracy comes in very handy. He explained first to the clerks, and then to the rabbi in charge of scheduling the hearings that we needed to expedite this because we're buying a house and the paperwork can't be completed unless we're linked on our teudot. Instead of getting a date in three months, Yossi wrangled us a return date for the next day.
The next day we're back, bright and early. The court clerk disallowed one of our witnesses because she is female ("I told you so," I got to say to Yossi and the Husband -- I knew the Rabbinute wasn't going to accept a female witness...) We called another friend, who was good enough to drop EVERYTHING and grab a cab over to the Rabbinute and tell the dayan that he has known us for a year and attested to our Jewishness. Yossi was the other witness, and his cheekiness made the dayan laugh in agreement with him.
"You need this [kind of hearing] for the Russians," Yossi told him. "They're the gentiles who come here, pretend to be Jewish, marry to take taxpayers' money and go back to Russia -- not people like this, Jews who have left America and brought their child here to live."
It was cheeky, it was funny, but it was also a sobering look into how the average working Israeli family looks upon the Israeli-Russian divide in this country. Yossi also explained to the dayan, the same nice man who decreed my husband divorced, and who on this particular morning had a stack of files which nearly covered his entire desk, that we need to finish the paperwork with the bank as immediately as possible, so can we have the decision today, please? Cheeky, but effective. The dayan told him he would try to have the decision ready by tomorrow but couldn't promise anything....but as we and our witnesses left, Yossi lingered long enough to say "Shalom" to the court and staff and overhear the dayan tell his clerk to expedite the paperwork today.
This is the sort of thing that not only requires patience, but also a sense of humor. The patience is a given -- even if you aren't a patient person, the system here forces patience upon you. But at the same time, apart from patience, you need the ability to step outside the immediate stress of the situation and laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Don't scream. Don't rend your clothes. Have a cup of cappucino, look at each other, say "Ma alasot?" ("what can you do?") and grin. It's the Israeli way to do things....