Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A legal alien

Today I went to an office, grabbed a number from a morose official and sat in an uncomfortable chair waiting for my turn. After a surprisingly short wait, my number was called and I found myself opposite a clerk, whose accent revealed that he was also a relative newcomer. After spending 10 minutes looking over my documents I was told that despite the fact that I hadn't waiting long enough since my arrival, they would probably send me the important number, without which I can't sort out a phone line and driving license "within 2 months".

I know you're thinking Misrad Hapnim but you're wrong - I'm in the US remember - that's the social security office in Rockville - but it just goes to show that we don't do things too differently (although an Oleh will usually walk out on the same day with a Teudat Zehut).

Last week I walked into the Verizon store to see about getting a mobile phone - how difficult could that be? Plenty of tourists buy them in Israel without a problem so why should here be any different? After a chat with the salesman during which I persuaded him that I didn't need a phone that gave me directions, played music, played games and made the tea, we finally found what I wanted in a corner of the store, hiding amongst the motorola sliders and flippers which our American cousins seems to love; a simple, beautiful Nokia. The price was reasonable and we went back to the counter to arrange the deal - and then came a catch (not THE catch - I hadn't been expecting one - a catch) - my lack of a social security number (2 months - see above if you skipped) and credit rating (another new concept) meant that I had to leave a deposit of $400 per phone. Ouch!!

I've concluded so far that the immigrant experience is never 100% straightforward, generally expensive and somewhat frustrating and needs to be approached with a full wallet and a sense of humour. I came to a similar conclusion when I made Aliyah in '96 and have been dispensing the same advice to Olim for a long time - so far everything is going great - I've got a bank account sorted which I opened with a Jordanian teller and we have an apartment with no furniture which I'll be moving into on Thursday.

Stay tuned!



Emah S said...

Did you by chance bring your Israeli cell phone with you? You could always do the SIM card thing.

or.....if you have no other options, you can get a phone from walmart or even walgreens that has a phone card that you use to charge the calls to. hope this helps. good luck!

amechad said...

Not a fair cell phone comparison. The tourists get a pre-paid or the rentals. You can get a rental if you want (of course I don't think you want to throw your money down the toilet). You can get the pre-paids at many stores, including Best Buy, Target, Circuit City or off of ebay (if you have an unlocked phone, this is the best option!)

The tourists in Israel don't get real cell phone plans because you need an Israeli credit card which as non-citizens they can't necessarily get and of course would need an Israeli bank account.

And it is logical that you need such documents. The reality is the problem with the Israeli bureacracy isn't simply upon making aliya but that it continues and that the every-day life things like the banks are rip offs. No bureacracy is good but somehow the Israeli one just seems to be worse than the US on this.

ifyouwillit... said...


Mrs. G said...

Oh sweetie, that last bit about the apartment with no furniture sounds so pathetic!

swiftthinker said...

We've got some furniture you could borrow. Come on over.