Sunday, January 3, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #102 – we pay. It’s what we do. We always pay.

Today we ventured out to Bituach Leumi. They raised the stakes (benefits for each kid plus a one time bonus for having a baby) by putting a time limit on us. We had to go in and provide our bank account information. Right away.

Bituach Leumi is located in the center of Jerusalem. And it is also located across the street and around the corner. We stumbled upon one office while looking for the other. We made our way through the security line where they first ask if you have neshek (gun) and then examine the contents of your bag. I went first since I had my purse and the diaper bag. It then looked like Bob was alone pushing the baby and the security guard was all over Bob. Until another guard showed him Bob was with me and they let him through. Evidently a man pushing a baby stroller is very suspicious.

We waited in a long line in front of three windows. When we got to a window Bob asked the tough looking no-nonsense BL agent:
Medaberet ktzat Anglit? (Do you speak a little bit of English?)
She had stood up after the last customer and for some reason was still standing.
LO! She shouted. She continued to stand as she shouted instructions at us in impatient Hebrew.
We were at the wrong office but no, we should not go to the other office now – we should take a number and wait inside and see if they can help us in this office.

We take a number and walk in to the DMV style waiting area. Our number comes up quickly and we are given forms to fill out at the counter. Bob asks if there are forms in English. We are told no but someone in booth 12 can help us. We assume that means the person in booth 12 speaks English. I walk over to booth 12. There is an elderly woman reading a newspaper in Hebrew. She doesn’t look like she speaks English.
Slicha. (excuse me)
Nothing. She can’t hear me. Obviously the booth 12 agent is on break and this hard of hearing elderly woman has sat down to read her paper here.
Bob, still at the counter, is giving me a questioning look.
Now I’m not sure what to do.
Slicha! At ovedet po? (excuse me, do you work here?)
She looks up.
Ma sareecha? (what do you need)
Ozer b’anglit. (help in English)
LO! (NO!)
She goes back to her newspaper.
I call to Bob.
There’s no one here. Just a woman reading the newspaper.
He tells the counter agent.
There is no one at Booth 12.
She looks over at Booth 12 and tells Bob:
There is a woman there.

Bob joins me at booth 12. As he sits down the woman suddenly puts down her newspaper and grabs the paperwork out of his hand. Bob asks:
At ovedet po?
Bob looks at me.
She motions to me and explains,
He shoelet medaberet anglit. Ani lo medaberet anglit! (SHE asked if I speak English. I do NOT speak English.)
Aval at yechola lazor lanu? (But can you help us?)
She proceeded to fill out all the paperwork for us.

When it came time to fill in the baby’s information she asked to see the baby. We angled the stroller so she could see Rachel.
Ma ha shem shelah? (What is her name?)
For the first time, a smile.
Shmee gam Rachel. (My name is also Rachel).

We finished up at the first office where they assured us we will now receive our benefits. We asked the security guard how to get to the second office (yashar, ad a sof, az yamin, v’smol – straight to the end, then right and left).
Yesh lach rach chamesh dakot. (You have only five minutes).

It was getting late. Almost 12 noon.

An Ezrach Oleh, also known as ‘Ezrach yelid chul’ (citizen born abroad) is a person who, whilst not having lived in Israel, is considered an Israeli citizen due to one or both of his parents being an Israeli citizen. In many cases an Ezrach Oleh is unaware that they are Israeli. Often the first they know of their status is when they are stopped at the border and given an Israeli ID number.

This was Bob – not knowing he was Israeli until we started the process of making aliyah. Now that we’re here, the kids and I are “new olim” and Bob, my suddenly Israeli husband, has a special status – “Ezrach Oleh.” This causes quite a bit of confusion. For example the day after we arrived here we went to sign up at the kupat cholim. They wanted to know which kupat cholim Bob had before.
When before?
When you lived here before!
I never lived here before.
But you must have. You are an Israeli citizen. Perhaps you were born here.
I was born in New York.
Are you sure?
Me interrupting: he’s ezrach oleh!
Ahhh! Ezrach oleh. Beseder. (Okay).
So we get the health insurance free for the first six months, yes?
No. You must pay.

Since we made aliyah as a family mostly we are considered “new olim” so we tend to forget about Bob’s special status...

We ran to the second office and got into the security line just in time.
We got in, took our number and sat in another DMV style waiting area. There was a lot of yelling in this office. Customers yelling at each other (evidently if number 230 is called and the person with number 231 goes to the counter, 230 loses his place in line), customers yelling at agents, and one agent yelling at someone on the customer’s cell phone.

Bob and I had number 244. We were assessing each booth to see where he should run once 243 was called. I told him booth 3. He was thinking booth 8. Suddenly booth 6 opened up and he pounced on the chair in front of the agent. The agent looked surprised. Bob and I started cracking up. She asked Bob what was going on. He explained to her everyone is yelling and fighting.
I want to yell and fight also!
She started laughing.
Now he presented her with our Bituach Leumi bill. The first office is where they pay you. This is the office where you pay them. This was our moment of truth.
We are new olim. Do I have to pay?
She studies the bill. She looks at her computer. She examines his teudat oleh.
As she says the words Bob and I realize it at the same time.
You have to pay.
He looks at me and I point at him and laugh:
He takes his teudat and folds it in such a way so that the “Ezrach” is hiding.
See, he says, holding up the folded teudat – “oleh”!
The agent was laughing so hard she was wiping away tears.

And so, before we receive the benefits from office #1, we have already paid office #2.

The gig is up
When we returned home there was a message explaining the nature of the 600 NIS gan bill. It is not mandatory but it is not a shakedown either. Simply fundraising by the ganenet to pay for things the municipality alone cannot afford for the gan. Well, when you put it that way, how can we not pay?


  1. My head is just swirling from reading's hard to imagine Bob with such patience...Just another daily challenge...hang in there guys!

  2. Wow, Im really enjoying the blog-I feel like I made Aliyah thru you guys!! Keep up the good work...loving reading about all your experiences!